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Representing women in advertising: Unilever to the rescue

The 2016 Cannes Lions advertising festival hasn’t been without its fair share of contention this year, with self-proclaimed ‘vibrant and eclectic’ digital agency VaynerMedia pairing up with men’s mag Thrillist to hold an after party that girls had to submit an unfiltered photo of themselves to event organisers be let into. How modern.

Yet the real saviour of this year’s festival has been Unilever. Thankfully, they have marched in and saved the day as well as the reputation of the Cannes Lions festival - by announcing – to much media acclaim - a “renaissance in marketing”, pledging to no longer use female stereotypes in their advertising. This is, apparently, “the future of brands”.

In case you hadn’t picked up the heavy dose of eye-rolling and sighing that accompanied the preceding paragraph, I am asking myself why in this day and age this has made our national newspapers – it’s not like they were short on content with the Bermuda Triangle of Brexit, BoJo and Trump we’re all currently trying to contend with.

Unilever is being heavily praised for its Dove adverts which already use ‘real’ women and patted on the back for ‘discovering’ that 40 per cent of women don’t identify with the women they see portrayed in adverts

In a keynote seminar at the festival, Unilever’s chief marketing officer, Keith Weed, said his company will unleash a three-pronged strategy, including giving women an “authentic and three-dimensional” personality in ads.

The strategy will also include showing roles that represent the “aspirations and broader achievements” of women, and depicting beauty in more ‘female’ terms as “enjoyable, non-critical and in perspective”.

But what really got me was the conclusion from Unilever’s research: “It was globally resounding that women are ever advancing in terms of equality, structure and human rights”.

Well, thank you, Mr Weed and thank you Unilever. Thank goodness we have you to affirm the achievements of womankind. Forgive me if I feel like the very fact this is being reported as some kind of grandiose and pioneering gesture has set us back a couple of decades.

If anyone needs me, I will be relocating to Iceland (ranked as the number one country in the world for women by Forbes) and starting a new career as an off-grid spoon whittler.