Dove ‘It’s on Us’ took 2 years to produce and here’s how 7Films and MullenLowe pulled it off

Dove’s latest project challenged other brands to showcase a broader diversity of women in their commercials. This is in reaction to a study that found that 70% of women still do not feel represented in media and advertising. This idea was no small task; the 3-minute film took just under 2 years to create and was led by South African team MullenLowe and 7Films. We sat down with 7Films Executive Producer Nina van Rensburg and Director Lourens van Rensburg to find out how they pulled it off when there were international companies that said it couldn’t be done.

You might not be able to see our reaction to the concept of this ad, but know that we are high-fiving our sisters so hard that the patriarchy just smashed into little pieces WHOOOOHOOO! Before we get into how this beast of a project got made, if you’ve had your face stuck in an Easter egg and not seen it yet, watch it now!

Dove ‘It’s On Us’

The Dove campaign starts with women sharing the reasons why they had been rejected when auditioning for commercials. The reasons all have one thing in common; the way they look. Dove called on other brands to increase the diversity in their ads by casting more underrepresented women and to get the brands motivated, the beauty brand offered to foot the bill of hiring the talent.

‘If you choose me and show me as I really am Dove will cover the cost of my appearance.’

7Films worked in collaboration with Casting Director Bonnie Lee Bouman to create casting tapes of the underrepresented models. These real beauty tapes were then sent along to casting approvals where they were shown, along with the tapes of the models who were asked to audition, to the brand heads and advertisers. The message that the women were sharing in the tapes: ‘If you choose me and show me as I really am Dove will cover the cost of my appearance.’

7Films had quite a mission on their hands…

When LOLA MullenLowe Madrid first presented the idea for ‘It’s on Us’ many thought it would be impossible to make. Executive Creative Director of LOLA, Tomás Ostiglia, weighs in on why they trusted 7Films with the momentous undertaking: ‘Since the majority of this production took place in South Africa, we collaborated with 7Films who are a strong local production company. In addition to having strong contacts with the main casting agencies in the country, their director Lourens van Rensburg has the needed sensitivity for this project.’ It was MullenLowe SA’s Chief Creative Officer Kirk Gainsford who first suggested 7Films come on board, adding: ‘When a project like this comes along, it comes with excitement and a large amount of anxiety. There’s no script, no clear way forward. It’s obviously a great idea and needs to be told, but it needs to be told beautifully. Ideas like this can only be achieved if everyone is charging in the same direction, constantly overachieving or you let yourself down. It’s too important to fail. I approached Lourens because I knew from work we had done that he and his team were up for the task of making this happen. The other part to a project like this is that you can get caught up in knowing the idea is great and forget that it needs to be a great film too. Lourens doesn’t get caught up in that. The film is all we get to see and he told the story beautifully.’

This campaign required Cirque du Soleil-like project management skills. Using their connections and friends from all over the world, 7Films documented the campaign that stretched over two years, four countries and one global pandemic. Lourens and his team had to discover who the Dove real beauty models would be and then create the tapes with the casting director. 7Films then worked with their agency friends to push their brands to come on board, as well as team up with other production companies to document the models’ experiences performing in the commercials that they were cast in.


Fran Luckin, ECD of Grey Africa, Xolisa Dyeshana, the CCO of Joe Public, and Peter Khoury, CCO of TBWA Hunt Lascaris along with various international agency heads all came on board to encourage their clients to effect positive change in their commercials. *Clapping wildly for these sneaky warriors* The first brands to have stepped up to diversify their commercials and cast the Dove real beauty models in their ads are Magnum, Krispy Kreme, Cif and Nedbank.

‘It was the first time in my 30 years in this industry that I genuinely wasn’t sure if this would be possible.’ Says Lourens, quickly adding: ‘But of course, when Kirk Gainsford from MullenLowe SA approached us with the idea we immediately said yes, because 7Films loves a challenge and also this project felt really important.’

We asked Lourens why he thought a group of South Africans were able to rise to this production challenge: ‘We are a bit of a wild west and maverick society. In South Africa, we still believe we can do anything. On paper, if you look at this Dove brief you would say it’s just too much effort and the risk is too great, but we jumped at this. Needless to say, we were incredibly lucky to have found the brave cast we did. They are all changemakers in their own communities and we wanted to amplify their voices as much as possible.’

It’s so great to see campaigns like this coming out of South Africa, proving once again that our industry really can do anything! Congrats team. Wanna (s)talk some more? Find 7Films on IDIDTHAT or their Company Website.

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Executive Producer: Nina van Rensburg

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Produced by the IDIDTHAT Content Studio – Credits: Anne Hirsch (Writer) / Julie Maunder

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