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Sexist Ads Don’t Work, So Unilever Has *Gasp* Decided to Actually Stop Making Them

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Unilever, which is the world’s second-biggest advertiser, did some research on the efficacy of their advertising strategies recently. They discovered that a huge majority of their advertisements contain negative stereotypes about women, and it turns out, that’s not an effective tactic when it comes to marketing products towards women.

The Guardian has put together an outline of Unilever’s depressing findings. According to the research based on a global sampling of ads, Unilever found that only 2% of all the ads depicted “intelligent women.” Presumably the other 98% of the ads depicted either unintelligent women or no women at all? Cool! Also, only 1% of the ads depicted women being funny.

Unilever also performed a global ad survey to find out what people think about advertisements. According to those results, 40% of women respondents said that “they do not identify at all with the women they see in advertising.” Makes sense, since the women who appear in advertising don’t even come close to representing the diversity of human experiences.

Anywho, this isn’t exactly a new finding. Last year, Canadean did some similar market research on the efficacy of gendered advertising, and they found that these types of ads don’t resonate with people, especially millennials. At least Unilever has decided to act upon their findings, announcing that they intend to make some changes when it comes to what they portray in future advertisements.

The example that Unilever cited as a success was Dove’s “Real Beauty” marketing campaign, so that could become a template for future corporations to copy. This seems like good news, until you remember that said corporations are using feminist buzzwords to get you to buy stuff, and then it’s just sad again. But at least we might be inundated ever-so-slightly less with images that enhance stereotype threat and encourage women to compare themselves to unachievable ideals. Cold comfort, perhaps, but it’s all drops of rain during a drought, right?

(via Jezebel, images via Imgur and YouTube)

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Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (, and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (