The Changing Face Of Stereotypes (in advertising)


Lara James, Planner at FRUKT, looks at the brands diversifying their message and fighting against conventional stereotypes.

This week’s campaign feature will start off with this undercover promotion video made by Paris, for Paris. In it, the obligatory petite-French-beauty sporting red lips and a little black dress, tours around the greatest historical sites the city of love has to offer – in a rather unexpected setting: The rooftops of Paris.


The charming parkour video has been featured on in the Lonely Planet, Vimeo’s Best Picks and has been going viral for the past month across the press and feeds of France.

With the latest rule breaking Kenzo ad* one could assume there’s got to be something in the croissant scented air in France and they seem to be on to something good.


It’s a movement sweeping across the industry and with it, changing its entire anatomy. We see a broader range of colours, shapes and sizes, gender norms are moving into fluidity and age is measured in performance. If one thing is certain, it is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach anymore.

Stepping away from stereotypes seems to be working according to Unilever…

Unilever have carried out multiple studies around the world over the last two years to better understand how female identity has evolved. Their findings exposed that 50% of the studied adverts had a stereotypical portrayal of women that the audience on the other side of the screen just could not identify with. This prompted Unilever to their #unstereotype commitment that was launched at the Cannes Lions earlier this year.


“The company plans to focus on three key areas to “advance advertising away from stereotypical portrayals”: roles that represent broader aspirations and achievements; more authentic, three-dimensional personalities; and a less critical presentation of appearance.”

Good. We salute that. Since then they have seen a 30% faster growth in the brands that follow that strategy - including Knorr, Dove, Cif and Surf – who have begun to eradicate outdated portrayals of gender.

Axe who have already made a U-turn on its juvenile women magnet direction have since then launched two iterations of their “Find Your Magic” campaign to fight the pressure of stereotypes - with a lot of personality.


Sports giant Nike decided to hero performance over expectations with Chris Mosier, Team USA's first openly transgender competitor and, my personal favourite, 86-year-old iron nun Sister Madonna Buder. She has completed over 45 Ironman triathlons, and doesn’t intend to stop now! (You go girl!)


It seems like brands are using diverse role-models to inspire behaviour change or are they just simply finally catching up with the times?

Just yesterday, the 58-year-old and third largest U.S. cosmetics brand CoverGirl chose a CoverBoy as its official spokesperson, 17-year-old makeup artist and social media star James Charles. The press champions it as a bold move to successfully reach out to the newly emerging target audience but it might very well be an overdue acknowledging nod to a trend that has already been boiling up beneath the surface. Many men have been building up their empire within the makeup industry for quite some time now, and have generated a substantial following.


                         James Charles – Makeup artist [650k followers on Instagram | 90k subscribers on YouTube]

“Our population is becoming increasingly diverse. These trends are certainly something millennials have appreciated as they’ve grown up, but they’ll be even more important for Gen Z.” Laura Brinker, vice president of influencer marketing at Coty

I’m sure the majority might be already familiar with some of these references but the shorter intervals between those bursts, suggests that we are finally getting closer to seeing trending diversity as the leading norm across the landscape.


*Directed by Spike Jonze - find similarities in Fatboy Slim - Weapon Of Choice.

Back to Source