Unilever’s ‘Unstereotype’ initiative has already has seen it vow to stamp out gender stereotypes in its own advertising and work with the likes of Cartoon Network to purge them from what kids watch on TV. Now it wants to do the same to the music industry with the help of Simon Fuller – the pop mastermind behind the Spice Girls.
The FMGC giant unveiled the latest element of its ‘Unstereotyping’ initiative at the Cannes Lions festival today (20 June) by issuing a call to TV, music and movie creators and distributors to eliminate outdated stereotypes.
‘Unstereotype’ has already has seen Unilever stop relying on gender stereotypes in its own ads and encourage others to do the same via an ‘Unstereotype Alliance’, which Mars, P&G and the UN are involved in.
Now, building on its commitment to the cause, the group is expanding the scheme to all forms of content and branded entertainment it creates with clients via its little-known U-Entertainment arm – which was launched a few years ago alongside its in-house content division U-Studio.
"There's so much effort [from brands] to create ads that aren't stereotypical, yet we're investing our media into programmes that are still full them. That's been something that's been really frustrating me, I know it's not easy to change and I know it's not going to happen overnight," said Aline Santos, Unilever 's Global Executive VP Marketing and Head of Diversity and Inclusion.
As a show of its own commitment, Unilever has inked a three-year multi-million dollar deal between its deodorant brand Sure (also known as Rexona) and Simon Fuller’s music company XIX Entertainment.
The partnership will see Unilever effectively launch its own pop group, called Now United, with the music mogul.
Comprised of 14 young artists from as many countries, including Brazil, China, Germany, India, Philippines, Senegal, US and UK, the band and Unilever will co-create content. Most of what emerges from the partnership will be themed around "the joy of dance", positioned alongside messages about equality and tolerance.
Fuller, who famously managed Annie Lennox, said he didn't care if the pure pop band was deemed "uncool" or not on-trend, saying he wanted to "embrace [Unilever's pioneering spirit" and "define new ways to interact with entertainment, celebrating diversity and inclusion with a powerful message of unity and positivity."
Though it’s focused on music, Unilever is also ramping up its efforts to purge stereotypes from TV. Again, through U-Entertainment, its biggest brand Dove has already been working with Cartoon Network to create original programming around the channel's popular. animated show Steven Universe.
Alongside the show's writer Rebecca Sugar, Dove creates short videos for broadcast using the show's characters to help educate kids and build body confidence. The partnership aligns with Dove's goal to provide 40 million young people with self-esteem education by 2020.
Christina Miller, president at Cartoon Network, said so far the multi-year collaboration was "unlike anything" the network had ever done before, and was unprecedented in its scale, reach and ambition to make a difference to its young viewers.
Purpose is paying off for Unilever, with Santos saying that progressive ads create 25% more branded impact for the group. Its own research has also revealed that progressive ads are 16% more relevant, 21% more credible and can drive purchase intent by as much as 18%.
The company also recently revealed that its sustainable brands, which include Dove and Knorr, have grown 46% faster than others in its portfolio over the past year.