Convened by UN Women, the United Nations entity for women’s empowerment, a new advertising coalition to tackle harmful stereotypes in UK advertising and media content launches today. The initiative will focus on encouraging diverse, inclusive and non-stereotypical representations of marginalised groups, initially focusing on the experiences of women of colour.
The Unstereotype Alliance, a thought and action platform, launches its UK National Chapter with a core group of 28 leading UK advertisers and creative agencies, with the objective of securing commitments from over 100 brands.
Ingrained inequalities in the UK have been further amplified by the COVID-19 global pandemic, and movements such as Black Lives Matter have put a spotlight on the ongoing social and economic injustices. The coalition will champion the advertising industry to act as a force for good, depicting progressive portrayals of women and men and ensuring that diversity is a priority throughout the entire creative process.
Keith Weed, President of the Advertising Association, who played a leading role in bringing together the UK group of founding members is calling on all advertisers and agencies to join the Alliance. He said:
“The COVID-19 crisis and Black Lives Matter movement have both highlighted the deep and entrenched inequality in our economy and society. The UK advertising industry must be a leading voice in helping us to build back better, which means using the power of our industry to reflect the diversity of our society but also to affect the normalising of values and behaviours that will lead to positive social change. I encourage all to join the Unstereotype Alliance. This is not only a moral imperative but crucial for brands and companies to grow their businesses and remain relevant and trusted by consumers.”
To date, 28 UK brands and creative agencies have signed up. Founding members and allies include:
- Advertising Association
- Advertising Standards Agency
- AMV BBDO (Omnicom)
- Business in the Community
- Channel 4
- Creative Equals
- Havas London
- Lloyds Bank
- The Co-Op
- Women in Advertising and Communications Leadership (WACL)
The UK is the 4th biggest advertising market in the world, and while significant progress has been made, there is a lot more work to be done specifically in relation to stereotypes. Studies by Ebiquity  and Channel 4/YouGov  found a severe lack of diverse representation in UK media and advertising content. Specifically, only:
- 4 per cent of ads today show women in leadership or professional roles
- 3 per cent show women as intelligent
- 1 per cent show women as funny
- 3 per cent of TV ads feature people from the LGBT+ community
- 2 per cent of TV ads feature disabled people
The impact of COVID-19
The COVID-19 global pandemic has further amplified issues around gender equality, with women disproportionately impacted by the pandemic around the world.
UN Women says COVID-19 could reverse the limited progress that has been made on gender equality and women’s rights, including women’s employment status, an unequal burden of care with home schooling and childcare, and increased gender-based violence both in and out of the home.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, commented:
“When brands, marketers and advertisers join the Unstereotype Alliance, it is a powerful statement that they are not just selling products – they are selling change. As we advance the mission of this generation, which is to tackle inequalities of all kinds, including racial injustice, gender inequality and homophobia, I welcome the expertise and talent of this group to positively influence behaviours in the United Kingdom, to help us fulfil our mission.”
Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever, said:
“Women’s equality matters for social and economic development globally. Harmful stereotypes hold women back, and Unilever will help break these stereotypes in our business and through our advertising. Having already taken the global Unstereotype Alliance into Brazil, Turkey, South Africa and Japan, I am delighted to see it come to the UK – focusing first on how women of colour are represented. The immutable laws of intersectionality mean that the better the job that we do for women of colour, the better chance we have of progressing gender equality everywhere.”
Karen Blackett, OBE, WPP UK Country Manager and GroupM UK CEO, said:
“Our industry has the power to influence people’s behaviour and change perceptions, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that the content we create better reflects the society we live in. Now more than ever, we need to address harmful stereotypes and work with clients to challenge how women and specifically women of colour are represented in advertising around the world.”
Leveraging the reach of the United Nations’ 193 Member States, the Unstereotype Alliance provides a global connectedness for members with a shared commitment to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5 for gender equality. The National Chapters drive change at a local level, responding to culturally driven stereotypes, social norms and attitudes.
For more information on the Unstereotype Alliance, visit www.unstereotypealliance.org.