Trends for 2018: Brands’ perspective on gender will transform

Consumers will no longer stand for outdated gender stereotypes so brands must move towards more progressive advertising.

The need to squash outdated gender stereotypes in advertising is admittedly a trend that has been a few years in the making, but 2018 will see this movement accelerate as more brands get behind it.

Unilever is one such brand looking to bring people into the 21st century. In 2016, it issued a rallying cry to the industry to rethink how it portrays men, women and families in advertising. Its global analysis revealed 50% of ads showed a negative or “not progressive” stereotype of women and less than 1% showed funny women. The FMCG giant deemed this unacceptable, and urged others to change their ways.

One year on, a raft of brands including Alibaba, Facebook and Google joined Unilever’s efforts by signing up to the Unstereotype Alliance. This news was swiftly followed by the Advertising Standards Association (ASA) announcing that new rules around gender stereotyping are set to be introduced in 2018 after it found advertising affects people’s expectations of how others should “look or behave” according to their gender.

Some household brands have already been leading the charge when tackling the issue, with John Lewis launching a range of unisex children’s clothes to reduce gender stereotypes. Unilever-owned Lynx has also steadily moved away from ‘babes in bikinis’ to focus on different types of masculinity.

“As we make this shift in portrayal of people, we will continue to applaud brands that reflect our diverse culture, help shape positive perceptions and celebrate what makes us all unique,” Unilever’s executive vice-president of global marketing and global head of diversity and inclusion, Aline Santos, tells Marketing Week.

“We’re proud of the journey we have been on so far and our vision for 2018 is to continue to progress in our commitment to tackle stereotypes head-on, while nurturing our brands’ creativity. This is not just about changing the hearts and minds of people today, but leaving a lasting legacy for the next generation.”

It seems inevitable that more brands will follow in Unilever’s path. In any case, the business argument for tweaking your approach to gender is clear – more progressive advertising is 25% more effective in delivering better branded impact, according to the company.