Not long after Sadiq Khan’s triumphant ban on body-shaming ads on the tube, the world’s second-biggest advertiser has announced it will be pulling away from outdated sexist stereotyping to promote its products.
Unilever, the mega-company behind kitchen favourites like Magnum ice creams and Pot Noodles as well as beloved sprays like Dove and teenage-boy-staple Lynx, has announced that it will now avoid sexist portrayals of women in light of new research.
According to The Guardian, the brand made the announcement after a recent study found that a woefully inadequate two per cent of ads show women with intelligence and only three per cent included women in professional roles or in a position of leadership. Women are disproportionately shown in domestic roles adding fuel to the “get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich” fire that is the backbone of the least original jokes on The Lad Bible. To add further insult to industry, a measly one per cent of women in Unilever ads have a sense of humour.
Keith Weed, Unilever’s chief marketing officer 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.”
Considering the company is the world’s second-biggest advertiser, spending £6.3bn a year on boosting the sales of more than 400 brands, these results are pitiful and depressing, but not that surprising. The idea of women being objectified in advertising has been well discussed. Lynx alone is built on the idea that spraying cheap man-perfume will attract hordes of women immediately, and Unilever even used women to sex up Pot Noodles.
Weed also assures us that the new and improved campaigns will show aspirational roles and “broader achievements” beyond a fixation on beauty. All depictions of beauty will apparently be “non-critical and in perspective”.
Who knows, we might even get the chance to make a joke or two. Fingers crossed.