Could the ad industry be the next victim of ‘cancel culture’?


Unilever research commissioned via Kantar shows people are increasingly disconnected from advertising today: less than one in five think ads are representative of society at large, fueling concerns that advertising could be history if it doesn’t rebuild its own image – and go further. , to help build a better world.

Research has also shown that people from underrepresented communities are most affected and are up to 30% more likely to be stereotyped than the general population. In fact, as many as 55% of Asian women think stereotypes in advertising don’t portray them; 46% of men with disabilities say they often see negative portrayals of people like them in advertisements; and 66% of LGBTQ+ people aged 18-34 think people from diverse backgrounds appear in ads “just to catch up on the numbers.”

Commenting on the results, Tarana Burke, founder of the “me too” movement, said: “Society and consumers are telling brands out loud that they are hurting. Now is the time for the industry to show that it listens to marginalized voices. Underrepresented people need to not only feel included, but be included. It’s what will transform the messages we hear, the images we see, the products we use and the way each of them is created. The world of advertising must lend its talents to lead a real change in society. It must listen to the people who lead these lives and movements, and ACT on what is heard. When someone feels represented in the mainstream, they have the power to meet the basic human need to be heard – a need the industry can actually help to meet. »

To address this, Unilever is expanding its 2016 commitment to Unstereotype and challenging itself to create marketing, not just advertising, that will help influence the next generation of people to break free from bias. Unilever’s “Act 2 Unstereotype” goes even further to bring real structural changes to the entire marketing process. It aims to provoke and embed more diverse and inclusive thinking across every brand – from new product development to advertising production. By serving more diverse people in progressive ways, Unilever believes its brands can be at the forefront of shaping a more just and inclusive world.

The actions that will help Unilever achieve its “Act 2 Unstereotype” vision are:

  • Provoke inclusive thinking throughout the end-to-end marketing process, from consumer insights, brand DNA and proposition, marketing mix development, creative development, behind the camera and on-screen representations. ‘screen.
  • Ensure an anti-stereotype charter for each Unilever brand, outlining the ED&I commitments that the brand will uphold through its marketing.
  • Work with more diverse and underrepresented groups on screen and behind the camera.
  • To eradicate any digital alteration of photography – a 100% ban on changing the models body shape, height, proportion or skin color.

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 bias-free generation. Inclusive marketing is no longer a choice; we must act now.

The launch is supported by a host of influencers, activists and experts, including Christina Mallon, inclusive designer and disability activist; Host and cultural commentator Sideman aka David Whitely; and Jon Miller, Founder and Chairman of Open for Business, the global business coalition promoting LGBT+ inclusion. They feature in a short film produced by Unilever to highlight the need for industry action.

Unilever’s Act 2 Unstereotype commitments shared today add to the company’s existing global commitments and actions to help build a more equitable and inclusive society. Earlier this year, Unilever announced its Positive Beauty vision, with the ambition to eliminate the word “normal” from the packaging and advertising of all beauty and personal care brands. Unilever also announced that it would spend €2 billion a year on suppliers owned and run by people from underrepresented groups.


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