Unilever, the company that owns hundreds of brands including Dove and Axe/Lynx, has pledged to stop using sexist stereotypes in their advertising.
The Guardian reports that this decision came after research showed 40% of women did not identify with the women they see in advertising. Even more indicative of stereotyping is the fact that only 3% of ads featured women in managerial, leadership, or professional roles (in contrast to domestic roles) and only 1% showed women being funny.
The company declared they would move towards portraying more “authentic and three-dimensional” women reflective of advances in gender equality and how gender roles have changed.
While Unilever has launched campaigns fighting stereotypes in the past like Dove’s Real Beauty, Choose Beautiful, or the Brooke Bond tea campaign featuring India’s first transgender band, the pledge will extend to other brands like Axe/Lynx.
The men’s grooming product company built the majority of their early hyper-masculine marketing around promises that their products would guarantee attractive women pursuing the consumer sexually. The company-wide pledge is a positive move, considering Unilever faced accusations of hypocrisy for promoting conflicting messages during Dove’s Real Beauty campaign.
Unilever chief marketing officer Keith Weed said:
“The time is right for us as an industry to challenge and change how we portray gender in our advertising. Our industry spends billions of dollars annually shaping perceptions and we have a responsibility to use this power in a positive manner.”
If only 2% of ads show intelligent women, it gives the message that society does not value intelligence in women. When ads portray men as sex-hungry feral creatures, then we’re setting the standards very low. If the excessively gendered advertising of #MasculinitySoFragile, documentaries like Miss Representation, and the backlash of pro-LGBTQ marketing have taught us anything, it’s that representation matters and we should demand more of it.