Unilever to Unstereotype Portrayals of Gender in Advertising

Evidence suggests progressive representation in ads increases
talkability and branded impact for consumers

CANNES, France–(BUSINESS WIRE)–In a rallying cry to the global advertising industry, Unilever
publically announced #unstereotype – a global ambition for all of its
brands and the industry at large to advance advertising away from
stereotypical portrayals of gender; delivering fresh campaigns that are
more relevant to today’s consumer.

The global company, Unilever is urging marketers globally to be aware of
the outdated stereotypes of gender that advertising still propagates and
the fact that progressive portrayals are proven to not only be better
for society, but better for brands.

Aline Santos, Executive Vice President of Global Marketing for Unilever,
says: “Stereotyping in advertising is a prevalent issue for all genders.
However, our research shows that the negative effects are most keenly
felt when it comes to representations of females. In fact, 40% of women
say they do not identify at all with the women they see in adverts1.
Advertising can be a powerful force in leading positive cultural change.
We believe it is our responsibility, alongside the industry, to be at
the forefront of this change by positively portraying people as they
truly are today – progressive ads will lead us to a progressive future
for all.”

As one of the biggest global advertisers, Unilever carried out multiple
in-depth studies around the world over the last two years to better
understand how female identity has evolved and how brands can be more
relevant and better connected.

Aline Santos continues: “We have validated through testing with Millward
Brown that more progressive advertising generates stronger engagement,
talkability and delivers better branded impact2. This shows
that not only is there an important societal imperative for this change
but a business imperative as well; it’s an important journey that we
must go on if we want to ensure we are truly maximizing the potential of
our creative outputs for today’s audiences.”

Unilever plans to advance portrayals of gender in its ads with a special
focus on women by addressing three key areas; Role, Personality and
Appearance. Roles should more broadly represent aspirations and wider
achievements beyond product-related responsibilities. Personalities
depicted should shift to become more authentic and three dimensional.
Appearance should be presented as enjoyable and non-critical, creating a
positive and creative interest in being whoever you want to be.

Keith Weed, Global CMO, Unilever, says: “The time is right for us as an
industry to challenge and change how we portray gender in our
advertising. Our industry spends billions of dollars annually shaping
perceptions and we have a responsibility to use this power in a positive
manner. As Unilever we are at the start of a journey, and we are
passionate about challenging the stereotypes that are pervasive.”

Unilever’s brands are already making waves with pioneering and
breakthrough campaigns historically from Dove and more recently from
Axe. Axe’s Find Your Magic has been widely applauded by both consumers
and the communications industry for its new positioning which is
liberating for people, where genuine connection beats conquest. Axe will
continue to be about attraction, but we are portraying the modern,
relevant, genuine world of attraction – the true magic that happens
between two equals.

Communications from other core brands like Knorr and Lifebuoy have also
been breaking their category molds by shaking-up and rethinking the
creative process from development right through to execution.

Aline continues: “With our Knorr brand, we recognized that traditional
gender roles around food had started to blur and cooking had become much
more inclusive and indeed on trend, like the Masterchef series. For
Knorr to remain relevant, be inspirational and progressive, we knew we
needed to change – niching our foodie conversation to specific gender
roles seemed outdated, that’s why when we portray our consumers today
you see divorced dads, groups of students and millennials, not just the
traditional stereotyped perfect family with mum doing the cooking.”

Knorr’s latest #loveatfirsttaste global campaign is a great example of
how flavor, cooking and food can help drive more meaningful connections
across gender, race and age and how understanding your flavor profile
can even bring you love.

Aline continues: “Lifebuoy has taken the conscious step to portray women
as the voice of authority, the one who influences the family and leads
change. We used progressive personalities like a real doctor or a Real
Life Bollywood Mother who are known to stand for Women’s Rights and the
cause of Help a Child Reach 5. We took casting seriously to counter
advertising stereotypes.”

A recent Lifebuoy campaign features not only a female doctor, a role
rarely depicted in Indian pop culture, but a pregnant, female doctor as
the voice of authority. This change reflects shifts happening in markets
like India with working mothers in high level roles; helping continue to
drive an evolution by providing an aspirational opportunity for women.

Keith Weed announced #unstereotype during his Keynote address at Cannes
on Wednesday, June 22. The initiative was further unveiled via a panel
discussion, moderated by BBC presenter Lucy Hockings on Thursday,
June 23, with Aline Santos. The panel also featured Actress Alysia
, Bollywood Director, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer at
Lowe India, R. Balki, Chief Brand Officer at Mattel, Juliana
and Deputy Executive Creative Director at BBH, Rosie Arnold.

R. Balki, Chairman at Lowe India says: “As we broaden depictions of
people in our advertising, we will broaden creative opportunities;
leading to progressive ads that are more enjoyable and generate stronger
emotional response. This an exciting proposition that I’d love to see
the global marketing community embrace.”

Madeline Di Nonno, President of Glass Lions Jury and CEO of the Geena
Davis Institute on Gender in Media says:
“Geena and I are heartened
by this significant and progressive move from Unilever. Media is the
only business industry when we can literally paint a picture of the
world the way we want it to be. One 30 second spot can make a lifetime
impression. Advertising as a storytelling medium is as important as the
programming it is attached to. We believe advertising can take a lead
position and ignite the advertising and content industries to jump on
board and embrace this movement.”

Several of Unilever’s partner agencies have already confirmed that they
will be adopting the new approach – including BBH, 72andSunny, JWT, DDB,
MullenLowe and Ogilvy, with many more likely to follow suit.

Aline concludes: “We hope that #unstereotype inspires others in the
industry to join us and commit to building brands in a way that puts
advertising on the forefront of leading culture with progressive
portrayals of everyone.”

About Unilever:

Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Food, Home and
Personal Care products with sales in over 190 countries and reaching 2
billion consumers a day. It has 169,000 employees and generated sales of
€53.3 billion in 2015. Over half (58%) of the company’s footprint is in
developing and emerging markets. Unilever has more than 400 brands found
in homes around the world, including Persil, Dove, Knorr, Domestos,
Hellmann’s, Lipton, Wall’s, PG Tips, Ben & Jerry’s, Marmite, Magnum and
Lynx. Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan commits to:

  • Helping more than a billion people take action to improve their
    health and well-being by 2020.
  • Halving the environmental impact of our products by 2030.
  • Enhancing the livelihoods of millions of people by 2020.

Unilever was ranked number one in its sector in the 2015 Dow Jones
Sustainability Index. In the FTSE4Good Index, it achieved the highest
environmental score of 5. It led the list of Global Corporate
Sustainability Leaders in the 2016 GlobeScan/SustainAbility annual
survey for the sixth year running. Unilever was ranked the most
sustainable food and beverage company in Oxfam’s Behind the Brands
Scorecard in 2016 for the second year.

For more information about Unilever and its brands, please visit www.unilever.com.
For more information on the USLP: www.unilever.com/sustainable-living/

1 CMI 2016

2 CMI 2016


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