P&G & Unilever Speak On How Stereotypes Can Be Thwarted In Advertising

Key lessons from P&G and Unilever on how stereotypes can be thwarted in advertising, reports Sana Mahmud

Leading FMCG brands P&G and Unilever highlight the importance of using marketing to break harmful stereotypes in a panel discussion at Cannes Lions. Aline Santos, EVP, Global Marketing, Unilever and Phil Duncan, P&G’s Global Design Officer, shared insights on how brands can use their power to drive gender balancing.

The five key takeaways from the session are:

Representation, Not Reach
“Marketers have been obsessed with reaching consumers and not obsessed enough with representing them,” Ms Santos noted. She outlined how Unilever’s Dove brand set out to represent all women with its ‘Real Beauty’ campaign. “Whoever is watching our commercials, they need to be inspired to be free to be whoever they want to be,” she explained.

Hire Diverse, Be Bold
Mr Duncan pointed out that P&G’s ‘Share The Load’ ad for Ariel, which challenges the stereotypical female role in the household, not only led the conversation but grew the business. “What’s good for the world should be good for business as well,” he said.

Create The Work
The leaders called for gender balance in terms of commercials directors and the marketing industry generally. Mr Duncan said that the reason 30 percent of ads have been found to show women in a less than positive light is because the industry is dominated by men.

“Around 33 percent of CMOs are women, 33 percent of Chief Creative Directors are women and 10 percent of directors are women – so when you add that up, of course you would get the outcome that advertising is not that representative and appreciative of women,” Mr Duncan explained.

Pave Way For Inclusive TV Content
“Along with raising the bar with their own work, brands need to force the TV industry, studios and content producers to do the same,” Ms Santos argued, adding, “We are still putting our media dollars into programs and content that are full of stereotypes. This is in incoherent.”

She added that the most powerful force for change comes from consumers. “The best pressure will come from consumers, and perhaps that is the pressure we need now but as an industry, we should make the change before we are forced to,” she said.

Still A Long Way To Go…
While progress has been made, there is a long way to go. In contrast to the current crop of Cannes Lions winners, Mr Duncan noted that the ads winning at Cannes Lions 10 years ago mostly displayed “male potty humor”. But, he added that while the number of female winners at Cannes Lions has gone up, and there has been some progress, it is “clearly not enough”.

Citing that the World Economic Forum prediction that it will take 217 years to reach gender parity, Ms Santos ended the discussion with a rallying cry to the industry, saying, “I want to see this change in my lifetime. I don’t want to wait. So, let’s all do it now.”

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