New research reveals Kiwi women face unprecedented pressure as A.I. threatens real beauty

20 years ago, Dove took pioneering steps to showcase real beauty with its Campaign for Real Beauty. In 2004, it revealed a startling truth; only 2% of women considered themselves beautiful. Since then, the Campaign for Real Beauty has challenged society, media and the beauty industry itself to change its representation of women, be transparent about digital distortion and face-up to the harmful impact unrealistic beauty standards have on women and girls.

To mark 20 years of the Campaign for Real Beauty, Dove conducted a sweeping study of beauty around the world to understand how beauty impacts women and girls today. While there has been some positive change, the state of beauty in 2024 isn’t pretty.

According to the 2024 edition of "The Real State of Beauty: A Global Report”, over 1 in 5 Kiwi women have expressed a willingness to give up five years of their life to achieve an ideal look or body. The study shows that while beauty ideals have diversified over the years, the checklist is growing and impossible to meet – from looking healthy (91%) to also being slim (83%), having a small waist (71%) while also being curvy (54%). Over two thirds of Kiwi women believe that women today are expected to be more physically attractive than their mother's generation was.

With 90% of the content online predicted to be AI-generated by 2025*, one of the biggest threats to the representation of real beauty is Artificial Intelligence.

Today, almost 80% of women and girls surveyed in New Zealand say they have been exposed to harmful beauty content online. Almost half of Kiwi women (48%) and Kiwi girls (40%) say they feel pressure to alter their appearance because of what they see online – a pressure that is much more prevalent in Australia and New Zealand than globally.

Dr Phillippa Diedrichs, Research Psychologist at the Centre of Appearance Research at the University of West England and body image expert says that artificial intelligence is perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards and lacking representation further through the content it is creating. While AI has the potential to foster creativity and access to beauty, over half of Kiwi women surveyed (61%) believe being able to create different versions of themselves using AI can have a negative impact on how they view themselves. Although in contrast 57% of Kiwi girls believe it can be empowering, highlighting generational differences, both age groups recognise there is still a need for greater inclusivity and diversity.

“Despite 20 years of work to broaden definitions of beauty, women feel less confident in their own beauty than they did a decade ago. Representation is more important than ever. As AI technology continues to evolve, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between what is real beauty and what is manufactured by AI.”      

In its 20th year of Real Beauty, Dove has pledged to accelerate its efforts to champion transparency and diversity and take action to shatter beauty stereotypes in new and emerging media. As part of this, Dove is announcing its commitment to never using AI to represent real women in its ads.

To help set new digital standards of representation in New Zealand, Dove has created its Real Beauty Prompt Guidelines - easy-to-use guidance for everyone on how to create images that are representative of Real Beauty on the most popular generative AI programs.

“Dove has always stood for real beauty, and our commitment to never using AI in our ads underscores our dedication to authenticity. By introducing the Real Beauty Prompt Guidelines, we aim to foster a more inclusive and transparent approach to beauty in the digital age. It's our mission to uplift women and girls everywhere and ensure they see their true selves reflected in the media,” comments Tess Giordimaina Marketing Manager for Dove at Unilever Australia & New Zealand.

Dove’s new campaign, the Code, reflects the impact of AI on beauty and demonstrates the impact real beauty has made to change beauty for the better, 20 years and counting.

The work Dove began in 2004 is far from over. Dove will never stop championing better representation, taking action to break beauty stereotypes, and standing up for the power of Real Beauty.  We can’t drive change alone. Together, let’s change beauty.

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