Unilever and UN launch Unstereotype Alliance with Facebook, WPP and more to purge gender biases from ads

Unilever's 'Find Your Magic' campaign for Axe has been highly lauded

Unilever has announced a partnership with UN Women, a UN entity which works for the empowerment of females, and several of the world’s biggest advertising and tech players to banish stereotypical portrayals of gender in advertising.

Dubbed the Unstereotype Alliance, the collective will build on Unilever’s 2016 ‘Unstereotype’ campaign, which aims to accelerate progress around how women and men are portrayed in ads and brand-led content.

Leading figures from Google, Mars, Facebook, Microsoft, WPP and more will join the UN and Unilever in partaking in the industry-led initiative. Unilever has said the scheme will bring together firms from around the globe and embrace the power of partnerships to tackle the widespread prevalence of stereotypes that are often perpetuated through advertising.

Unilever itself has made some strides in this area since doubling down on its promise, recently retuning Lynx’s proposition (Axe in the US), and unveiling Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Pledge' which commits to featuring everyday women of different ages, sizes, ethnicities, hair colour, type or style in its marketing.

“We’ve seen true progress in our industry, but it doesn’t go far enough,” said Keith Weed, global chief marketing and communications officer at Unilever. “Our job isn’t done until we never see an ad that diminishes or limits the role of women and men in society. We want to work with our peers across the industry to develop new ways of working, to share knowledge and approaches, so that we can scale the Unstereotype commitments.”

He continued: “We believe cross-sector collaboration will lead to sustained transformation. This is no longer just a social imperative but a business one, progressive ads have been found to be 25% more effective and deliver better branded impact.”

The first Unstereotype Alliance event will take place at Cannes Lions this week. The group eventually aims to expand beyond its founding members and generate momentum across industries to drive impact at scale.

According to Unilever’s executive vice-president of global marketing, Aline Santos, the initiative seeks to ensure that discounting gender biases becomes the norm for all brands, and not just "a differentiator for a select few."

Speaking ahead of the Unstereotype Alliance event, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women said: "Stereotypes reflect deep-rooted ideas of femininity and masculinity.

"Negative, diminished conceptions of women and girls are one of the greatest barriers for gender equality and we need to tackle and change those images wherever they appear. Advertising is a particularly powerful driver to change perceptions and impact social norms. UN Women is excited to partner with the foremost industry shapers in this Alliance to challenge and advance the ways women are represented in this field."

Rebecca Stewart

Rebecca Stewart is a reporter at The Drum. Based in London, she writes news, analysis and features around brand marketing and digital innovation. She has interviewed key figures from the likes of Airbnb, Amnesty International, Unilever, Facebook and Spotify, as well as covering international events like Ad Week Europe, Dmexco and Ciclope.

All by Rebecca