Unilever opens up about ditching stereotyped ads

By Lucy Whitehouse

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Advertising

Unilever on unstereotyping its adverts
Unilever has committed to adopt a new approach to advertising across every one of its brands: an elimination of any gender stereotypes. The company has been speaking out about its success so far.

Aline Santos, evp of global marketing at Unilever, has spoken of the new initiative to Adweeek.​ She notes that the #unstereotype campaign was born in response to the stat that 40% of consumers weren’t connecting to advertising in the broader industry on an emotional level.

One of the things we've found is that gender has evolved, but we still look at gender in a stereotyped way, which creates a big distance between us and consumers. We felt that it's time for us to correct that and be much closer to the reality of gender and people today​,” she explained.

The approach has been a drastic change when it comes to some of the company’s brands, like Axe (Lynx in the UK). As Santos told Adweek, “The stereotype of manhood that we had been portraying for years isn't relevant anymore. Not only was it not relevant, but it wasn't right​.”


The company has said elsewhere that the strategy is proving win-win: Santos told The Drum in a recent interview that “all [Unilever] brands with strong purposes run 30% ahead of the others​”.

It seems the multinational is convinced of the power of progressive brand identity, with Santos describing this faster growth as a “huge number and a significant difference​”.

Offering what consumers consider to be an authentic brand identity and voice appears to be becoming an essential marketing move for companies, particularly when looking to court millennial consumers and those younger.

As the largest generation ever, millennials’ global spending will reportedly reach $2.5 trillion dollars in five years.

According to Euromonitor International, ethically conscious and environmental concerns are key among the consumer group.

Behind the strategy

In its bid to remove sexism from its adverts, Unilever has said it intends to adopt a three-prong strategy.

Firstly, it will give female characters “authentic and three-dimensional​” personalities; secondly, it will showcase the “aspirations and broader achievements​” of women; finally, it will endeavour to depict beauty as “enjoyable, non-critical and in perspective​.”

Keith Weed, Unilever chief marketing officer, has spoken of the company’s sense of responsibility to shift its output: “Our industry spends billions of dollars annually shaping perceptions and we have a responsibility to use this power in a positive manner.”

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