The advert was a critical, popular, and financial success. It won a number of the most prestigious awards in the advertising industry, including two Cannes Lions Grand Prix awards and an Epica D'Or. It has been discussed in many mainstream television programmes and print publications, and the exposure generated by the spot has been estimated at a value of over $150M. Evolution has also spawned numerous unofficial copycat versions, including a title sequence to a BBC sketch show and a short parody called Slob Evolution, created by a British production company, Blink Productions, which has gone on to itself be nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award (see legacy section below).
One shot is selected from the batch and moved into a generic image editing software interface, where a series of "Photoshopping" adjustments are made to alter the appearance of the model further, including lengthening the neck, adjusting the curve of the shoulder, altering the hair and skin, and enlarging the eyes and mouth. The final image is transferred to a billboard advertisement for the fictional Easel brand of foundation makeup, and the piece fades to the statement, "No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted." The film ends with an invitation to take part in "Dove Real Beauty Workshops", the logo for the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, and, in some versions, the website address of Unilever-Dove's Campaign For Real Beauty, for which the film was produced.
The series received significant media coverage from talk shows, women's magazines, and mainstream news broadcasts and publications, generating media exposure which Unilever has estimated to be worth more than 30 times the paid-for media space. Following this success, the campaign expanded into other media, with a series of television spots (Flip Your Wigs and the Pro-Age series, among others) and print advertisements ("Tested on Real Curves"), culminating in the 2006 Little Girls global campaign, which featured regional versions of the same advertisement in both print and screen, for which Unilever purchased a 30-second spot in the commercial break during Super Bowl XL at an estimated cost of US$2.5M.
In 2006, Ogilvy & Mather were seeking to extend the campaign further, by creating one or more viral videos to host on the Campaign for Real Beauty website. The first of these, Daughters, was an interview-style piece intended to show how mothers and daughters related to issues surrounding the modern perception of beauty and the beauty industry. It was during the production of Daughters that a series of short films entitled "Beauty Crackdown", of which Evolution was part, was pitched to Unilever as an "activation idea." The concept was one that art director Tim Piper, who proposed to create Evolution with the budget left over from Daughters, pushed. It was originally intended to get people to the Campaign for Real Beauty website to see Daughters, and to participate in the workshops featured on the site.
The actual production itself took place over the course of a single day, and over two-and-a-half hours of footage was taken for the make-up portion of the film. This was eventually condensed to 23 seconds in the final version. The stage was dressed in a manner identical to that of modern fashion shoots, with the lighting and camera being positioned to remove any shadows from Betts's face to aid in the post-production retouching. Sound design took three weeks, and was divided into two sections. Fifteen hours were spent creating several mixes of "Passage D", each tested and discarded before the version used in the final film was settled upon. A further nine hours were spent adding in the various background noises to the piece, including sped-up human voices, a starter pistol and galloping racehorses.
Post-production at SoHo was originally planned to take approximately three days, but it was extended to two weeks. Gabor Jurina, the photographer responsible for the digital retouching of the actual photographs taken of Betts during the shoot, supplied the post-production team with 118 digital stills of the intermediate stages of the transformation from the "real" photograph of the made-up Betts to the final image shown on the billboard. These were re-cut and assembled to create the functions shown in the "Photoshopping" sequence, such as stretching Betts's neck and adjusting the size of certain of her facial features. Other post-production work included stabilising Betts's head in the center of the shot during the make-up sequence, covering certain continuity errors, creating and compositing the billboard advertisement, and constructing a false image-editing interface.
The advert was a startling success online and was viewed over 40,000 times in its first day, 1,700,000 times within a month of its upload, and 12,000,000 times within its first year. Even without having appeared offline, the advert was discussed by a number of mainstream television programmes, including Good Morning America, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and The View, and news networks such as CNN, NBC, and ABC News, with the overwhelming majority coming out in support of the campaign's message. Spaces at the mother and daughter workshops sold out almost immediately, and the total exposure generated through the $50,000 piece was estimated by Ogilvy & Mather in October 2006 as being worth around $150M. Comparisons have often been drawn up between the campaign and Dove's earlier purchase of a 30-second spot for Little Girls during the Super Bowl XL. The Super Bowl spot cost an estimated $2.5M, reached an audience of 500 million, and generated only one third of the boost in traffic to the Campaign for Real Beauty website of Evolution.
Evolution was particularly popular with critics within the advertising industry, and has garnered a number of awards since its debut in October 2006. It was the favourite in the run up to the Cannes Lions to win the festival's Grand Prix in the Cyber category, generally considered one of the most prestigious awards in the industry. Ultimately, the prize went to three entries: Nike+, advertising the Nike brand, Heidies 15 MB of Fame, promoting fashion company Diesel S.p.A.'s website and products, and Evolution. Evolution also went on to win the Grand Prix in the Film category, beating I Feel Pretty from Nike, Inc., Paint for Sony's BRAVIA line of high-definition television sets, and The Power of Wind for the Wind Energy Initiative. The victory attracted a certain amount of controversy, as the jury switched Evolution from the "Fundraising & Appeals" category, whose entries are ineligible to win the Grand Prix, to the "Corporate Image" category at the last minute. Chairman of the jury Bob Scarpelli said of the decision "We moved it into another category because we felt that strongly about it. We were not trying to break rules or set precedents, we just went with our hearts and minds, and asked the festival if we could move it." As a result of the win, Evolution became the first entry in the festival's history to take home Grand Prix awards from two categories.
The piece went on to win a number of other awards, including a silver Clio Award (in the Toiletries/Pharmaceuticals category), the Film Grand Prix and two Gold prizes at the London International Awards, an Epica D'Or and Gold Prize in the Interactive category of the Epica Awards, among others.
Slob Evolution is an Emmy Award-nominated short film created as a parody of the original Evolution spot in late 2006. The piece was directed by Simon Willows and, known for his work on the Volvic mineral water television and cinema commercials, and was produced by Claire Jones with the production company Blink Productions. Post-production work was done by Framestore CFC The slob actor is Matt Craigie.
In Slob Evolution, the role of the model is taken by a teenage boy (Craigie) who, instead of having make-up applied in the time-lapse sequence, is given fast food, alcoholic beverages, and cigarettes, transforming over the course of thirty seconds into an overweight middle-aged slob. Further adjustments are made in a similar image-editing interface used in Evolution, with the subject's neck shortened, features made more asymmetric, and a tattoo added. The image is transferred to a billboard advertisement for the fictional Lardo brand of "man cream", before fading to the statement, "Thank God our perception of reality is distorted. No one wants to look at ugly people." The web address to which the parody directed people who saw it was "www.campaignagainstreallife.com".
Blink Productions described their reasons for creating the parody as "firstly to promote the presence of Blink Productions, a traditional commercials production company, to the online community. Secondly, to prove that a relevant and great piece of content needs no money spent on seeding. Proving itself to be a true 'viral.' The parody was uploaded to video-sharing website YouTube on December 4 2006 and was promoted only through a seeding of 30 e-mails. Within its first month, Slob Evolution received over 278,000 hits.
The parody went on to be nominated for a number of prestigious awards, including the "Comedy: Short Form" and "Viral" categories of the 2007 Webby Awards, and in the "Outstanding Broadband Comedy" category of the 2007 Daytime Emmy Awards. The popular and critical attention that Blink Productions received for Slob Evolution led to Tiger Aspect, the production company behind the 2007 BBC comedy sketch show Ruddy Hell! It's Harry And Paul, contacting the production company to produce an introduction to the show in a similar vein.
The title sequence to Ruddy Hell! It's Harry and Paul begins with a further adaptation of "Passage D" (with much of the drill 'n' bass section removed) playing as the screen fades in to Morwenna Banks and Laura Solon. The familiar time-lapse sequence shows the pair being given several pints of lager, cigarettes, and fast food. Their hair is cut and their make-up removed as they slowly morph into Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse, the joint hosts of Ruddy Hell! It's Harry And Paul. After brassieres are removed from the pair's shirts, the camera zooms out to show a billboard advertisement similar to that in Slob Evolution, with the show's title displayed underneath.
After the debut of Evolution, Dove quickly ordered several follow-up online advertisements, the first two of which (Onslaught and Amy) appeared online in October 2007. The pair are predicted to prove at least as popular as Evolution. Other companies have attempted to use the same formula, with mixed results. Among the more-commented on campaigns is Beauty is..., launched by Nivea in 2007 and comprising television, print, and online segments which push the same message as the Dove campaign.