OK so first up I need to admit that I heard this from someone at BBH, and since the campaign was developed at Ogilvy the story I am about to give you is the very definition of hearsay. If anyone knows better, or different, please let me know.
Next the background, this campaign caused a massive sensation when it launched for displaying real women with real bodies in all their beauty, and making the somewhat controversial suggestion (from a cosmetics company) that cosmetics companies and the media are responsible for taking confidence away from women by only portraying images of impossible perfection. The campaign for real beauty was Dove's response to this and played well into their brand image of simplicity, purty and innocence.
The story goes that the senior management team at Unilever were not buying into the campaign idea at all and had rejected it on a number of occasions. However, the ad agency were not to be so easily dissuaded and had continued to recommend it to the client. A showdown was brewing.
Some time before the Big Meeting, and presumably on the pretence of something unrelated, the ad agency had arranged (via a friendly client) to interview some of the female children of the management from young girls to teenagers and had videotaped their responses. It covered their attitudes to all sorts of things.
On the day of the Big Meeting, the agency makes their big play about why the campaign is a great idea, how it would be a unique positioning in the marketplace and how it is important to make this statement about how people in all their infinite variety can be beautiful. Then they play the film.
The interviews from all these girls, some only 7 or 8 years old, the children of the executives around the table, had been edited together and one by one they explained about how they felt ugly, how they felt terrible pressure to be thin, what diets they had been on and showing the camera their least favourite body part. All very emotional for everyone in the room. Doubtless there was a heart rending and atmospheric soundtrack, maybe Celine Dion.
The campaign was approved, the ads were made, and the rest you already know. I have no idea if it's true or not, but it's a good story.