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Unilever commits to marketing overhaul as it seeks to end stereotyping in brand ads

Gaelle Walker
17 June 2021

Dove manufacturer Unilever has pledged to overhaul its entire marketing process in a bid to create more diverse and inclusive thinking across all of its brands - from new product development right through to advertising production.

The ‘Act 2 Unstereotype’ pledge includes a number of key actions that Unilever will implement now, including a commitment to work with more diverse groups on screen and behind the camera.

It will also place an outright ban on changing models’ body shape, size, proportion or skin colour in photography - building on its Positive Beauty commitments made earlier this year. 

The launch of ‘Act 2 Unstereotype’ comes after research commissioned by Unilever revealed that consumers were “increasingly disconnected with advertising today,” with less than one in five believing that ads were representative of wider society.

The research also showed that those from under-represented communities were impacted the most and up to 30% more likely to be stereotyped than the general population.

More than half (55%) of women of Asian heritage said that stereotypes in advertising did not represent them; while 46% of men with a disability said they often saw negative portrayals of people like them in ads.

In addition, 66% of LGBTQ+ people aged between 18 and 34 said they believed that people from diverse backgrounds featured in ads “just to make up the numbers”.

Unilever hopes that the new pledge will help to address the problem and inspire other manufactures and brands to take similar action.

Key commitments in its ‘Act 2 Unstereotype’ pledge include:

  • To provoke inclusive thinking across the end-to-end marketing process from consumer insight, brand DNA and proposition, marketing mix development, creative development, behind the camera and on-screen portrayals.
  • To ensure an Unstereotype Charter for every Unilever brand.
  • To work with more diverse and under-represented groups on screen and behind the camera.
  • To eradicate any digital alterations to photography – a 100% ban on changing models’ body shape, size, proportion or skin colour.

Aline Santos, chief brand officer and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Unilever said: “If we want to see systemic change in society, we need to see systemic change in our industry.

“Act 2 Unstereotype helps brands create a generation free from prejudice. Inclusive marketing is not a choice anymore; we must act now.”

The launch is being supported by a host of influencers, activists and experts, including inclusive designer and disability activist, Christina Mallon; broadcaster and cultural commentator Sideman aka David Whitely; and Jon Miller, founder and chair of Open for Business, the coalition of global companies promoting LGBT+ inclusion.

The pledge follows the launch of Unilever’s Positive Beauty vision earlier this year in which it promised to eliminate the word ‘normal’ from packaging and advertising across all beauty and personal care brands.

Unilever also announced it would spend €2bn annually with suppliers owned and led by people from under-represented groups.

Unilever produces a number of well-known beauty and personal care brands in the UK including Dove, Vaseline, Love Beauty and Planet, Impulse and Alberto Balsam.

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