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Gender identity is changing and our advertising has not changed enough – up until now. We've listened to consumers and looked at the way we portray gender in our advertising and realised we need to do things differently.

We understand that by using our influence responsibly, we can contribute to positive cultural change as well as making better connections with people through our advertising. That's why we've asked every one of our brands to challenge itself to move away from unhelpful stereotypical portrayals of gender, especially for women, and to deliver fresh campaigns that are more relevant to today’s consumer.

#Unstereotype is Unilever’s global commitment to shift advertising away from stereotypical portrayals of gender, across our own brands and the industry as a whole, and was launched in 2016.

In June 2017 we took this a step further by partnering with UN Women to launch the Unstereotype Alliance – a new global alliance of industry leaders set to banish stereotypical portrayals of gender in advertising and all brand led content. Since 2017, the Alliance has been embraced by businesses and organisations who have been champions of addressing gender bias in the industry. Members include ANA, AT&T, Alibaba, Cannes Lions, Diageo, facebook, Geena Davis Institute, Google, IPG, IPA, Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Mattel, Microsoft, P&G, Publicis, Twitter, The Female Quotient, UN Women, World Federation of Advertisers and WPP.

The first Unstereotype Alliance event took place at The Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity and it aims to expand beyond its founding members and generate momentum across industries.

Calling on content creators & distributors to eradicate stereotypes

Last year, as part of our Unstereotype commitment, we expanded the initiative across all forms of content and branded entertainment, announcing a three-year deal with between Rexona and Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment. Rexona will partner with NOW UNITED, the first ever global pop group comprised of 14 artists from 14 countries including Brazil, China, Germany, India, Philippines, Senegal, US and UK. Together, they will co-create content across multiple channels that unites different cultures through the joy of dance and music. The campaign aims to reach millions of young people with positive, progressive messages around equality and tolerance and inspire young people that they can proudly be who they are, wherever they are.

Aline Santos, Unilever Executive Vice President Global Marketing and Head of Diversity and Inclusion, says “Through our ongoing advertising assessment against Unstereotype criteria we already know that progressive advertising creates 25% more branded impact and new data now tells us that progressive ads are also 16% more relevant, 21% more credible and can drive purchase intent by 18%. The economic case is just as tangible as the social case for change, which is why we are expanding the Unstereotype initiative to drive unstereotypical content at scale through new partnerships and mainstream content.”

Today, minorities remain underrepresented in film leads (13.9%) and female directors are widely overlooked (6.9%), despite audiences making it clear they prefer diverse film and television content. Unilever believes progressive collaborations between brands and content creators will therefore be key to meeting audience’s expectations and tackling harmful stereotypes around gender, race, sexuality and more.

Continental and Lynx challenging stereotypes

Traditional gender roles around food preparation have blurred, and cooking has become much more inclusive and on trend. Continental is about great food and flavour – neither of which are gender-specific.

In Australia, our Continental brand led the way a few years ago with their ‘Love At First Taste’ campaign, showing that food and cooking are pleasures everyone can enjoy, regardless of gender. This echoed the global Knorr campaign which wanted to reflect and lead this changing face of cooking globally and, by doing so, be relevant, inspirational and progressive.

The Love at First Taste campaign moved away from showcasing ‘Mum’ cooking and being the ‘meal provider’. Instead, it appealed to millennials on their terms – through a shared love of cooking – by portraying men and women cooking for each other.

In New Zealand, Lynx challenged traditional notions of masculinity with their #FindYourMagic campaign which encouraged men to find what makes them unique, because the most attractive men they can be is themselves.

Find out more about how we’re also improving self-esteem and wellbeing through the Dove Self-Esteem Program.

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