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Walking the Talk
Unilever Calls for Reform in Influencer Marketing; Brings #Unstereotype Vision to Life Through Dance

At the 2018 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity this week, Unilever announced commitments to improve transparency in its influencer marketing and called on industry to similarly help improve authenticity, build consumer trust and improve brands’ ability to measure impact.

At the 2018 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity this week, Unilever announced commitments to improve transparency in its influencer marketing and called on industry to similarly help improve authenticity, build consumer trust and improve brands’ ability to measure impact.

The scale and scope of influencer marketing is growing at pace and holds increasing importance in the marketing mix as a way for brands to reach consumers, but practices such as fake followers, bots, fraud or dishonest business models can erode trust in the whole ecosystem. Unilever called on industry to put in place “all possible controls” to help avoid such bad practices.

The company added that marketers currently have limited visibility to accurately measure influencer programming and track authentic engagement. Unilever is looking to work with social platforms for increased visibility and transparency.

“At Unilever, we believe influencers are an important way to reach consumers and grow our brands. Their power comes from a deep, authentic and direct connection with people, but certain practices like buying followers can easily undermine these relationships,” Unilever CMO Keith Weed said in Cannes on Monday. “Today we are announcing clear commitments to support and maintain the authenticity and trust of influencer marketing.

“The key to improving the situation is three-fold: cleaning up the influencer ecosystem by removing misleading engagement; making brands and influencers more aware of the use of dishonest practices; and improving transparency from social platforms to help brands measure impact,” he continued. “We need to take urgent action now to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever.”

Unilever is one of the world’s largest advertisers with an annual brand and marketing investment of over €7 billion. Weed pledged in February not to work with platforms that incite hate, spread division or fail to protect children. Commitments made this week at Cannes reinforced its commitment to working with responsible platforms.

The company also built on its #Unstereotype commitment to promote more inclusive representation and gender diversity in marketing through “multi-million-dollar content partnerships,” including an interactive dance pop group called Now United.

Now United is the first ever global pop group comprised of 14 artists from 14 countries and is managed by Simon Fuller of American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance? fame. Unilever’s three-year, multimillion-dollar sponsorship of the group through its Rexona deodorant brand (also known as Sure, Degree and Shield depending on the market) represents a new kind of social media influencer for the company.

“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. 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,” said Fuller. “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.”

The goal of the partnership is to sponsor and co-create engaging, entertaining content to bring #Unstereotype to life for young people as one way Unilever hopes to “drive unstereotypical content at scale through new partnerships and mainstream content.” One of its main components is the Now United Rexona virtual dance studio, which taps into the popularity of dance and dance tutorials, one of the most popular types of video on YouTube.

“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,” read Unilever’s press release.

In another previously announced collaboration, Dove has a multi-year deal with the Cartoon Network’s hit television show Steven Universe. Through the partnership, Dove is working with the show’s creative lead to create original programming using the characters of Steven Universe to educate and build body confidence amongst the next generation, helping to expand Dove’s reach to provide 40 million young people with self-esteem education by 2020.

“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,” said Aline Santos, Unilever Executive Vice President Global Marketing and Head of Diversity and Inclusion. “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.”

Also at the 2018 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity this week, P&G called for an aspiration to achieve 100 percent accurate and positive portrayals of women in advertising and media, supported by equal representation of women and men in the creative supply chain including through the Free The Bid pledge.