Agencies Rally Around Unilever Anti-Stereotypes Project

Unilever wants the advertising industry to stop demeaning women and has  announced the #unstereotype movement calling for all of its brands and the industry at large to advance advertising away from stereotypical portrayals of gender. 

“We want to deliver fresh campaigns that are more relevant to today’s consumer,” says Unilever's Aline Santos, EVP global marketing, Unilever. 

Santos was joined by actress Alysia Reiner; Juliana Chugg, chief brand officer, Mattel, Bollywood Director, R. Balki and Rosie Arnold, deputy executive creative director, BBH, at the Cannes Lions Thursday  to discuss how marketers can use advertising to inspire and improve the lives of women in society.  

Several of Unilever’s partner agencies have already confirmed that they will be adopting this new approach including BBH, 72andSunny, JWT, DDB, MullenLowe and Ogilvy.  



"Advertising can be a powerful force in leading positive cultural change," says Santos. "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.” 

Some 40% of women don't identify with women they see in advertisements suggesting the need for "progressive representation," said the panelists. This movement is aimed at 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." And appearance should be presented as "enjoyable and non-critical," creating a positive and creative interest in being whoever you want to be.  

Unilever is already developing creative under this new mandate. Axe’s Find Your Magic shifts the brand away from its risqué frat boy humor to portray the modern, relevant, genuine world of attraction, where "the true magic that happens between two equals." 

Unilever’s new ad mantra has paid off at this year’s festival. A campaign for its  Red Label Tea, which is sold in India, won the Grand Prix Glass Lion for challenging stereotypes in India by celebrating transgender artists, a gender identity that has traditionally not been accepted within the Indian culture. Dove, Knorr, and Lifebuoy also are undergoing new creative messaging using these guidelines.  

Unilever has carried out multiple in-depth studies to better understand how female identity has evolved and how brands can be more relevant and better connected. 

“We have validated through testing with Millward Brown that more progressive advertising generates stronger engagement, talkability and delivers better branded impact," says Santos. "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.”


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