Unilever's Keith Weed Is Right To Call Out Adland On Lazy Stereotypes

Could we be seeing the beginning of the end of those tiresome ads that rely on gender stereotypes that aren't funny but just grate? If Unilever's CMO Keith Weed is anything to go by, the writing could be on the wall for those mid-afternoon detergent and ready meal ads that put us all in a box.

You know the ones. Mum's typically at the stove making dinner, dad's an ineffectual idiot who can't operate the hoover and is likely to be bodging some DIY somewhere or finding that the kids are a lot more work than he bargained for. Unless there's some humour in an everyday situation, they just get a little tiring, don't they? It just always seems to be the laziest way of advertising anything.

We have a new product with a fresh smell -- let's have mum enjoying it radiating out of the washing machine while dad's working on a bike and getting the kids covered in grease that mum doesn't need to worry about now, not with our new lavender freshness. One final turn of a wheel covered in mud showering the kids and we're done with a smile from mum that says "boys will be boys."

Keith Weed is a guy to listen to, arguably the UK's most well-known CMO and frequent event headliner. His blog in Marketing Week is not just a personal opinion article, but referenced what the Unstereotype Alliance has been set up to tackle. The fact that the group features so many rivals from different parts of adland and the FMCG world underscores how seriously the challenge to stop falling back on lazy stereotypes is being taken.

The key takeout for me is that Weed claims ads that don't rely on stereotyped characters perform 25% better. It's not spelled out whether this is in terms of recall or favourability. However, it does show that there has been a shift in public perception. Consumers are only too aware of how FMCGs, in particular, have been selling to them over the years, and crucially, they are no longer responding. The alliance is obviously taking a bet that, instead, the public is responding more favourably to ads with more creativity.

In fact, Weed makes the point that only 12% of creative leaders are women and so the gender that gets the short end of the stick in advertising needs better representation.

The Alliance has pinpointed 2020 as the time by which participants need to have metrics for un-stereotypical ads in place so progress can be measured and best practice shared.

It can only be good news, can't it? Not just from a standpoint that these ads are outdated, but also that they don't appear to be well received any more.

No, the real bonus here is that creatives are going to have to earn their bread by coming up with something that goes well beyond the tried and tested formula of busy mum and stupid dad. Those who want to go above and beyond will relish the challenge. Those who've been hiding behind a staid formula will not.

Better ads, better creativity and a break from the monotony. For all those reasons, Keith Weed and the Unstereotype Alliance deserve a massive round of applause.

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