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News Plus 8 Nov 2021 - 2 min read

Unilever, IPG, Optus, Suncorp join Australian brands' pledge to eradicate stereotypes in advertising after years 'navel gazing and round tabling purpose'

By Danielle Long - Contributing Editor
Nicole Sparshott, CEO Unilever Australia & New Zealand, Ben Hill, Marketing Director, Mars, Lisa Ronson, CMO, Coles, Jenny Melhuish, Head of Brand and Advertising, Westpac

Coles CMO Lisa Ronson, Unilever ANZ CEO Nicole Sparshott, UN Women's Simone Clark, Westpac's Jenny Melhuish, and Mars Marketing Director Ben Hill.

A global UN Women initiative to tackle harmful stereotypes and promote greater diversity in advertising and media has launched a local chapter. The Unstereotype Alliance aims to make advertising "a force for good" by securing actionable commitments from the industry. Consultant and UN Women advisor Sunita Gloster told Mi3 it was high time the industry stopped talking about purpose and actually did something. "How's that for purpose," she said.

What you need to know:

  • The Unstereotype Alliance, a global initiative led by UN Women with Unilever, IPG and Mars, has launched an Australian chapter in a bid to end stereotypes and drive equality and diversity.
  • Coles and Westpac have joined as local champions, along with 17 other companies including Facebook, Google and IKEA.
  • Consultant and UN advisor Sunita Gloster urged industry to stop talking and start doing.

The good, the brands and the ugly

Unilever, Coles, Mars and Westpac are among an alliance of brands, agency holding companies and tech platforms that have pledged to tackle harmful stereotypes in Australian advertising and media content.

The 21-strong alliance is working with UN Women, the United Nations entity for gender equality and women's empowerment, to launch the Australian chapter of the Unstereotype Alliance.

The alliance aims to make advertising "a force for good" by securing actionable commitments from across the industry. The initiative will address the representation of gender, race, ethnicity, and ability in media and advertising content, promote progressive portrayals of all people, and ensure diversity is a priority throughout the creative process. 

Simone Clarke, CEO of UN Women Australia, said the alliance would drive "real, meaningful change". "Representation of our community in advertising and media content is critical to creating an equal and open society. One of the best ways to ensure that is to have representation across the advertising, marketing, tech and media industry."

For years now ... the industry has spent copious time round-tabling and navel-gazing in its search for purpose ... Unchallenged harmful stereotypes are linked to inequality and discrimination; that link is now in full focus. We can play a vital role in accelerating change on equality. Let's look no further. How's that for purpose? 

Sunita Gloster, Consultant and UN advisor

Shoot, don't talk

The launch comes at a significant time for the industry as companies continue to seek purpose and platforms to align with their brands, while gender, diversity and inclusion initiatives are on track to be the new net-zero.

It comes on the heels of two gender equality campaigns by UN Women "When Will She Be Right?" and #EmpowerMoves. The campaigns, which attracted 24m views and 85m views, respectively, "hit a nerve" and helped propel the conversations around the role of advertising, according to Sunita Gloster, CEO of Gloster Advisory, who also serves as an advisor to UN Women.  

"Our industry prides itself on wielding the power to shape and influence culture and society in a positive way. For years now, climaxing around the Black Lives Matter movement, the industry has spent copious time round-tabling and navel-gazing in its search for purpose, to give businesses meaning beyond shareholder value," said Gloster.

"Unchallenged harmful stereotypes are linked to inequality and discrimination; that link is now in full focus. We can play a vital role in accelerating change on equality. Let's look no further. How's that for purpose? The Unstereotype Alliance can unite the power of the industry to apply its weapons of mass construction to achieve an equal future for all."

Australia is the tenth market to launch a local chapter following the global launch at the 2017 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which was co-convened by Unilever and UN Women.  

Nicole Sparshott, CEO of Unilever Australia & New Zealand, said the company had a "responsibility" to tackle harmful stereotypes. "We reach so many people every day, with our brands, through our products and our communication. We have both a responsibility and an opportunity to dismantle the stereotypes that perpetuate bias and cap potential, creativity and agency. We must be a voice for all individuals, not just a few."

The complete list of companies in the alliance is Accenture, Bayer Australia, Coles, Diageo Australia, Facebook Australia, Google Australia, IKEA, IPG, Ipsos Australia, Mars Australia, Mastercard Australia, Omnicom, Optus, Publicis Groupe, Salesforce, Snap Inc., Suncorp, Unilever ANZ, WPP AUNZ, Westpac and the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA). 

The other markets to launch local chapters of the initiative are Brazil, Japan, India, Kenya, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, UAE, and the UK.

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