Shun unhealthy stereotypes in advertising – Unilever VP

Marketers and advertisers have been advised to avoid unhealthy stereotypes in campaigns and communications as it holds people back and is detrimental to brands and businesses.

Speaking at the DStv Seminar of Creativity during the Loeries Creative Week held in South Africa recently, Vice-President, Personal Care of Unilever in Nairobi, Debra Mallowah, said marketers and advertisers needed to begin to un-stereotype. In her speech, titled #Unstereotype, Mallowah spoke about the gender stereotypes advertisers perpetuate in ads and challenged them to rethink and reimagine the roles given to women (and men) in commercials.

“The idea is for us marketers and advertisers to begin to un-stereotype. Do away with unhelpful stereotypes that we put through in our advertising and begin to portray a more progressive female identity. We focused predominantly on female identity because in studies we did two years ago, we recognized that that is where the main issue is. Of course, there would always be some male stereotypes, but the main issue is around female identity. There is that belief that if we tend to a more progressive portrayal of women, it would be in service of the creative opportunities in total gender and help us move along.”

Research by Unilever conducted in Brazil over the past two years reveals that 40 percent of women do not identify at all with the women they see in advertising, while 42 percent of them say that advertising shows merely a fragment of who they are.

While the situation seems dire for women, men are affected also as 35 percent do not identify with the men they see in advertising. The advertised ideal is a strong, handsome, sometimes violent, competitive man, all at once.

In July 2016, Unilever began this initiative which aims to break gender stereotypes in advertising.

In popular culture like music and film, women are portrayed as bossy wives, seductive domestic workers, jealous girlfriends, sweet mothers, monsters-in-law, bridezillas and as objects of desire viewed through the eyes of the male folk.


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