Unilever take pledge ditch the sexism. Do we buy it?

"It's time to challenge and change how we portray gender in our advertising" - Unilever marketing officer 

Is this really happening? We hope so.

Unilever has a history of sexist and exploitative advertising and has let us down before. Here's some background.

unilever-logo.jpgUnilever is the parent company for many different brands including food and drink, personal care products and cleaning supplies.

Unilever's website states "We make some of the best known brands in the world, and those brands are used by 2 billion people every day."

Collective Shout has long called for a boycott of two of these brands - Lynx and Dove. Melinda Tankard Reist summarised the reason behind this on The Gruen Transfer.

Lynx is owned by Unilever, which also owns Dove. You would know about Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign which purports to promote respect and recognition of women’s real value. Dove also funds programs in schools to help educate regarding body image issues. How you do that while also presenting women as out-of-control sex maniacs who attack any man who has sprayed himself with Lynx, I don’t know. Dove also has skin whitening creams for dark skinned women suggesting real beauty only comes in white skin. As well, Unilever markets slimfast products for rapid weight loss, suggesting real beauty only comes in size skinny. Had enough of real women already have we?

People can easily understand the problem with Lynx's marketing. Lynx's brand page on our website lists the racist, sexist and ageist advertisements they've produced and documents its porn-inspired publicity stunts.

But why boycott Dove? Isn't Dove one of the 'good guys?' Dove's campaign for 'Real Beauty' certainly made it look that way. High quality videos accompanying the 'Real Beauty' campaign struck a chord with many.


It was easy to forget that the ad campaigns, celebrating women's diversity existed solely to promote beauty products, which included "cellulite firming cream" and skin lightening cream. 


This 'real beauty' campaign took place right alongside Lynx's 'spray more get more' ad campaign. 

There was no escaping the fact that Unilever exploited women and girls with sexist, objectifying ad campaigns to sell men's deoderant. Unilever also exploited growing community concern about women and girls body image, a problem Unilever - through Lynx - had helped create.


But it appears that times are changing, well at least we hope so.

Unilever's Chief Marketing Officer, Keith Weed, said in a statement:

“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.”

The global research on advertising suggests that only 2% of ads show intelligent women, just 3% of ads show women in managerial, leadership of professional roles and women are disproportionately represented in domestic roles.


“As Unilever we are at the start of a journey, and we are passionate about challenging the stereotypes that are pervasive,” said Weed.

We look forward to seeing if Unilever stay true to their pledge. 

Collective Shout calls on all businesses to sign the Corporate Social Responsibility Pledge which is a statement of intention by an organisation to be respectful of women and girls in marketing and not objectify women or sexualise girls.

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  • commented 2016-06-27 23:23:58 +1000
    Only time will tell. Maybe they are telling the truth, who knows? Sometimes you just have to have a little faith in people.

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