Cannes Lions: Unilever Fights Stereotypes With Dance Pop



Unilever got the 2018 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity rolling on Monday with news that, across its brands and marketing touchpoints, the company would be taking a harder look at influencer marketing—particularly in an era where self-styled social media influencers can buy followers.

Unilever chief marketing officer Keith Weed hit the Croisette running with a commitment to more authentic and trustworthy digital marketing by “announcing clear commitments to support authenticity and trust of influencer marketing. Collectively, we have the power to improve consumer trust, before it’s too late.”

The purpose-driven Unilever has revealed how it’s evolving its two-year-old #Unstereotype movement — which launched as a commitment at the 2016 Cannes Lions.

Unilever #Unstereotype

At last year’s Cannes Lions event, the initiative formally expanded into an alliance — with Facebook, Google, Mars, Microsoft and other companies along with UN Women — to promote more iclusive representation and gender diversity in its marketing and advertising efforts, and promote the elimination of stereotypes and other harmful and diminishing portrayals of people across the industry. Showing the strength of a united coalition, on P&G also underlined its commitment to #Unstereotype on Monday.

Expanding #Unstereotype At Scale

On Tuesday Unilever announced that it was expanding its #Unstereotype commitment with “multi-million-dollar content partnerships” involving a new kind of social media influencer for the company: an “interactive pop group” of young dancers and singers called NOW UNITED, which is managed by Simon Fuller of American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance? fame.

The goal of the partnership: to sponsor and co-create engaging, entertaining content to bring #Unstereotype to life for young people and “drive unstereotypical content at scale through new partnerships and mainstream content.”

As part of expanding the initiative across all forms of content and branded entertainment, Unilever announced a three-year multi-million-dollar deal that would see its Rexona brand, “the world’s biggest deodorant brand,” sponsor NOW UNITED and tap into the popularity of dance and dance tutorials, one of the most popular types of video on YouTube.

Rexona (also known as Sure, Degree and Shield depending on the market) will sponsor a virtual dance studio and summer campaign for NOW UNITED, the first ever global pop group comprised of 14 artists from 14 countries including Brazil, China, Germany, India, Philippines, Senegal, U.S. and UK. The cross-cultural group is managed by Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment unit.

GET EXCITED! #NowUnited #StayTuned

A post shared by NOW UNITED (@nowunited) on

As part of the deal, Rexona is now the official dance partner of NOW UNITED, which includes the creation of a sponsored content series based around the Rexona Dance Studio with the group’s acclaimed Los Angeles-based choreographer Kyle Hanagami, whose dance tutorials can be followed on YouTube (and who’s a YouTube sensation in his own right).

According to Unilever’s press release, “Together, we will co-create content across multiple channels that unites different cultures through the joy of dance, celebrating movement and inspiring people to move more. The campaign will reach millions of young people with positive, progressive messages around equality and tolerance and inspire young people that they can proudly be who they are, wherever they are.”

“Through our ongoing advertising assessment against Unstereotype criteria we already know that progressive advertising creates 25% more branded impact and new data now tells us that progressive ads are also 16% more relevant, 21% more credible and can drive purchase intent by 18%,” said Aline Santos, Unilever EVP for Global Marketing and Head of Diversity. “The economic case is just as tangible as the social case for change, which is why we are expanding the Unstereotype initiative to drive unstereotypical content at scale through new partnerships and mainstream content.”

“As one of the most socially conscious and largest consumer goods companies today, Unilever brands like Rexona continue to cut through the clutter when it comes to making bold statements with real actions,” Simon Fuller commented. “With Now United I also want to embrace this pioneering spirit, defining new ways to interact with entertainment, celebrating diversity and inclusion with a powerful message of unity and positivity. Through the passionate engagement of music and dance, with Rexona as our partner, we will share all of this positive energy and excitement with our audience on a global scale.”

P&G, which underlined its corporate commitment to #Unstereotype on Monday, Unilever is already partnering with Cartoon Network in a collaboration that involves Dove – the world’s largest provider of self-esteem education – and CN’s animated series, Steven Universe.

The multi-year branded entertainment / integration deal sees Dove’s brand team collaborating with the show’s creative team to co-create original programming using the characters of Steven Universe to educate and build body confidence amongst the next generation. The partnership is helping to expand Dove’s reach to provide 40 million young people with self-esteem education by 2020.

“It has always been important to us that our content resonates with our audience and empowers them,” says Christina Miller, president Cartoon Network. “This partnership is unprecedented in its scale, reach and ambition to make a difference in kids’ lives around the world.”

Today, minorities remain underrepresented in film leads (13.9%) and female directors are widely overlooked (6.9%), despite audiences making it clear they prefer diverse film and television content1. Unilever believes progressive collaborations between brands and content creators will therefore be key to meeting audience’s expectations and tackling harmful stereotypes around gender, race, sexuality and more.


A post shared by Aline Santos (@alineunilever) on

As Aline Santos commented, “As marketers, we have talked for decades about reaching as many people as possible; it’s time we place equal emphasis on representing as many people as possible. That means prioritising greater authenticity in our characters and storylines, and doing more to accurately capture the richness and diversity of the world we live in. From films and TV programmes, to web series and podcasts, we have to work with the entertainment industry to co-create content we’re proud to support with our media investment.”

As Leena Nair, Unilever’s Chief Human Resources Officer noted, the business case is clear for addressing cultural and gender stereotypes in marketing and advertising:

Below, a look back at how Unilever has evolved its #Unstereotype commitment to break down gender stereotypes in advertising with the kick-off at Cannes Lions 2016:

And the evolution into an alliance and broader-based movement in 2017, one that demanded more of brands to take responsibility and use their platforms to make an impact:

See more of the NOW UNITED brand of diverse youth entertainment below:


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