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12 Unilever ads that smash stereotypes


… And how a scientific test reduced unconscious bias in our marketing teams

Iris Magnum

It’s been three years since we announced our pledge to unstereotype our advertising. Since then we’ve been working on doing so across every brand and in every one of our markets.

We believe that reflecting a progressive and inclusive world can contribute to positive cultural change as well as deliver bottom-line results. The latest data from data and insights company Kantar tells us that unstereotypical advertising creates 37% more branded impact, 28% uplift in purchase intent and increases enjoyment of ads by 35%.

That’s why we’ve been working with creatives to ensure our campaigns defy outdated and harmful cultural norms and instead are underpinned by inclusive, diverse and progressive portrayals of people to inspire, support and empower the audiences we reach.

Scroll through the case studies below to find out how our brands are bringing our unstereotype promise to life.

Science against stereotyping

Earlier this year, we worked with academics at University College London on an experiment which challenged our marketers to rethink the way their campaigns portray the people we serve.

More than 60 advertising and marketing professionals from Unilever and our key agency partners in London, New York and Rotterdam volunteered to provide a DNA sample which was used to examine their geographical origins.

Following their results, the volunteers took part in a behaviour-change workshop with UCL designed to create a deeper understanding of how and when stereotypes are learnt, the brain mechanisms that govern them and how we can unlearn stereotypical thought patterns to increase creative and inclusive thinking.

The Unstereotype Experiment showed a statistically significant 35% reduction in stereotypical thinking and a significant change in original thinking among those who took part.

“Becoming conscious of our blind spots”

“Taking people on a journey through their own DNA profile created a moment of reappraisal and, in many cases, that realisation of their ancestry proved to be a great surprise to them,” explains Associate Professor of Experimental Psychology Dr Lasana Harris.

“Coupled with training on how the brain forms stereotypes, we challenged their perception of themselves and, in turn, that of others.”

Aline Santos, EVP of Global Marketing and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, adds: “We are constantly innovating to find new ways to accelerate Unstereotype across our workforce and in our advertising. Becoming conscious of our blind spots and the biases that are holding us back is fundamental, but unconscious bias training has its limitations.

“We’ve piloted this experimental approach and measured its impact because disruptive techniques and scientific methods will help us all to drive the action needed to be more progressive in our creative work.”

Watch a film about the experiment here

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