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Advertising and marketing

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Advertising helps inform people about the benefits of our products and innovations. It is also a way for us to engage with consumers on issues that matter to them.

Communicating with consumers

Dove Real Beauty campaign poster with a diverse group of women standing in a line

We have four clearly defined principles that guide our communications with consumers:

  • We are committed to building trust through responsible practices and through transparent communication – both directly to consumers and indirectly through other key stakeholders and thought-leaders.
  • It is our responsibility to ensure that our products are safe and that we provide clear information on their use and any risks that are associated with their use.
  • We fully support a consumer's right to know what is in our products and will be transparent in terms of ingredients, nutrition values and the health and beauty properties of our products.
  • We will use a combination of channels, which includes product labels, websites, careline phone numbers and/or consumer leaflets to communicate openly with our consumers.

Responsible marketing and advertising

We are committed to responsible marketing and advertising. As a leading global consumer goods company, we promote the benefits of our products using many different channels of brand communication.

Marketing and advertising can be a powerful force for behaviour change. They help inform people about the benefits of our products and innovations. It is also a way for us to engage with consumers on issues that matter to them. For example:

  • Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty challenges current stereotypes about beauty.
  • Omo/Persil's 'Dirt is good' campaign promotes getting dirty as a natural and positive part of growing up for children – all part of their learning and development.
  • Comfort One Rinse’s campaign explains to consumers that they only need one bucket of water for rinsing their clothes rather than three, helping them to save water.

At the same time, we recognise the influence of marketing and advertising on consumers and take our responsibilities seriously. We apply the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) code ‘Advertising and Marketing Communication Practice’ as the basis for all our communications. The ICC code stipulates that all marketing and advertising must pass the baseline test of being 'legal, decent, honest and truthful’ and that we must ensure that all the claims we make have a sound scientific basis.

International self-regulatory codes

We support the development of international self-regulatory codes for all marketing and advertising and apply these across our business.

Working through our industry trade bodies, such as the World Federation of Advertisers and the International Chamber of Commerce, we have supported the development of general principles in this area and their integration into advertising and marketing self-regulatory codes and systems around the world.

Promoting healthy body images

There is much debate around the fashion and marketing industries' portrayal of unrealistic images of beauty through media and advertising. Unilever brands are free to choose the type of model and actor that fits best with the image of the brand. However, they are always bound by Unilever’s standards on healthy body images.

In 2007, we adopted a global guideline to prevent the use of 'size zero' models or actors in our advertising to ensure that our advertising does not promote 'unhealthy' slimness. All brand directors and agencies are expected to use models and actors with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of between 18.5 and 25 as a guideline. This is in line with the World Health Organization’s guidance on what level of BMI can be considered healthy.

Marketing our foods and beverages

We’re committed to promoting healthy diets, not just by providing more nutritious products but also by marketing and advertising them responsibly.

In 2003, we were one of the first companies to apply principles for marketing foods and beverages to children. We’ve since evolved these principles in the light of continued concern about childhood obesity, the impact of social media and the vast number of products to choose from. Our Principles on Responsible Food & Beverage Marketing to Children (PDF 1.06 MB) are applicable to all Unilever’s food and beverage marketing communications and activities worldwide, as are our Nutrition and Ice cream Business Groups' General Marketing Principles (PDF 307.49 KB).

In addition, our Responsibly Made for Kids (PDF 896.86 KB) promise sets out how our ice creams are responsibly communicated, responsibly sold and responsibly developed.

We’re a founding member of the International Food & Beverage Alliance (IFBA). Working with this alliance, we’ve played a major role in promoting industry-wide voluntary initiatives to advocate responsible marketing of foods and beverages for over a decade. In 2021 Unilever signed up to the International Food & Beverage Alliance 2021 Enhanced Global Policy on Marketing Communications to Children.

In April 2022, we updated our Marketing to Children Principles, raising the standards for an increasingly digital world. They now reflect the fact that Unilever will stop marketing food and beverages to children under the age of 16 years old, across both traditional media and social media, by January 2023. In October 2022, we made two changes to these Principles. The core of the April 2022 update of not marketing to children under the age of 16 remains.

  • We clarified that the scope for Principle 1 is paid media.
  • We found that due to multiple data systems across the world, we cannot currently implement our data collection commitment for children under 16. So we have reverted to our previous commitment whereby we will not collect personal data from children aged under 13. We still intend to ensure better data protection of teens and will seek approaches to explore this.
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