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Leon Kaye headshot

Unilever is Paying Brands to Bring Diversity into Their Ad Campaigns

Unilever is pushing for more diversity in advertising by subsidizing the costs of modeling talent if other brands rethink their definitions of "beauty."
By Leon Kaye

As more women make it clear that it has been long past time for the advertising industry to welcome diversity and inclusion, more organizations are responding in kind. To that end, Unilever recently announced that it will further push advertising agencies to redefine what to many people have become tired and clichéd definitions of beauty.

The latest extension of this work is the Dove brand’s announcement that it will promote more inclusivity in the wider advertising sector by subsidizing the costs of talent if other brands rethink their definitions of what a “model” should be.

Dove’s corporate site in South Africa noted studies finding that as much as 70 percent of women don’t see themselves in advertising and media. “We know from research that if women don’t feel represented, it can hold them back from reaching their full potential,” Sophie van Ettinger of Unilever said in a public statement. “The effects are vast, negatively impacting health, career and relationships. As an actionist brand that continuously challenges narrow beauty ideals, it is our duty to help others to represent all beauty in their advertising.”

The work started two years ago when Dove launched Project #ShowUs in partnership with Getty Images and the creative network GirlGaze. Together, the organizations collected over 10,000 images of women who comprise a “more inclusive vision of beauty,” and made them available for any media and advertisers. These photos have not been altered or airbrushed in any way.

Now, Dove South Africa says it wants to take this movement further. The brand describes the effort as hacking the advertising industry from the inside. Models offered a simple message to casting directors: “If you choose me, and show me as I really am, Dove will cover the cost of my appearance fee.”

Brands that have made the decision to work with these models include the French cleaning products company Cif, donut chain Krispy Kreme, ice cream maker Magnum, and South African financial services firm Nedbank.

“There is different kinds of beauty, all of it deserves to be shown, all of it deserves to be represented in the right kind of way,” said Mpho, one of the models who participated in this initiative and who ended up working with Magnum on one of its ad campaigns.

The offer to not only work with these aspiring models, but even pay to have them appear in other companies’ campaigns builds upon additional recent work by Dove and Unilever on this front. For example, Unilever announced earlier this month it would remove the word “normal” from all of its brands’ personal care and beauty products after research the CPG giant commissioned revealed that, more often than not, the term connotes negativity and makes consumers feel excluded.

Image credit: Dove South Africa

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye