Dove is pretty big on championing feminist causes and body positivity, but occasionally it’s released ad campaigns where its messaging is not entirely on-point. Here are five Dove commercials that lean pretty heavily on using the image of a woman biting the head off of a live rooster as a symbol for female empowerment.
1. The Dove commercial where a woman rubs Dove lotion on her skin, bites the head off a live rooster, and then smiles as a voice says, “You’re beautiful enough to eat the chicken’s brain.”
This ad, which first aired in 2002, immediately startled television viewers and failed to connect with Dove’s mostly female customer base. While the commercial was clearly intended to show that women were held to a narrow standard of beauty, it didn’t really elaborate on this message beyond showing a woman ripping a rooster’s head off with her teeth. The fact that the commercial ended with the slogan “Dove knows you’re beautiful enough to taste the bird’s brain” only served to further alienate women from the brand.
2. The Dove commercial where a woman bites the head off a live rooster in front of her screaming children and a voice-over says, “Beautiful moms know that this is the way it has to be.”
When Dove ran this ad back in 2007, most people barely understood that it was supposed to be about female empowerment because the cinematography focused mostly on the woman’s screaming children and the fountain of blood shooting out of the rooster’s decapitated neck. As a result, the CEO of Dove had to issue a statement following the ad, which clarified that strong women love biting the heads off of roosters.
3. The Dove commercial where women of various shapes and sizes bite the heads off of roosters before Serena Williams comes onscreen and says, “Ladies, there’s only one body type: rooster decapitation.”
Not even the appearance of a world-class athlete like Serena Williams could salvage this train wreck of a commercial, which showed a long procession of women using their teeth to tear roosters’ heads off their bodies in some kind of convoluted comment on body positivity. Not only was it highly confusing, but the ad also drew considerable criticism for Williams’ claim that “rooster decapitation” was the only female body type.
4. The Dove commercial where a woman sees a rooster in a cage that says “UGLY” and a rooster in a cage that says “BEAUTIFUL” and bites the heads off of both of them.
Viewers were a little hazy on the overall meaning of this commercial, and Dove didn’t really stick the landing on what it intended to be a moving statement on self-love and unfair beauty standards. Viewers were left even more bewildered by the end of the commercial, when the woman holds the two decapitated rooster bodies up to the camera ands says, “I’m thin and fat,” before the Dove logo appears. Ultimately, it wasn’t one of Dove’s stronger ad spots.
5. The Dove commercial where a woman describes her own face to a sketch artist and the sketch artist draws her biting the head off a live rooster.
The premise of Dove’s inspirational social experiment was simple: A woman would sit on one side of a curtain while a sketch artist sat on the other side. The woman would describe herself, and the sketch artist, using only the verbal descriptions from the woman he could not see, would make a drawing of her biting the head off of a live rooster. When the woman steps out from behind the curtain, the sketch artist shows her the drawing and says, “No matter how you describe yourself, you will always look like someone who beheads a bird with her teeth all the time.” Dove filmed this inspirational social experiment as a way to show the ways women judge their own appearances too harshly, but sadly, just like the others, its heavy use of rooster decapitation mostly just distracted from its empowering message.