Unilever denies exploitative marketing accusations

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Advertising, Unilever

Unilever has fought back against accusations from a consumer group
that the company uses the same exploitative marketing
techniques that it recently denounced in a high profile campaign.

Last week, Unilever released a video called Onslaught as part of its Dove Real Beauty campaign, which features distressing images of women pursuing bodily perfection juxtaposed with pictures of a young girl bombarded with beauty adverts. The video ends with the message: "Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does." The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) responded by accusing Unilever of contributing to the damaging advertising that the company criticizes in its hard-hitting Onslaught video. The consumer group points in particular to Unilever's raunchy video advertising for Axe body spray featuring a female pop group who are driven into a sexual frenzy by the Axe aroma. "Even as Unilever basks in praise for its Dove Real Beauty campaign, they are profiting from Axe marketing that blatantly objectifies and degrades young women,"​ said CCFC's director Susan Linn. "Unilever's Dove Real Beauty campaign is corporate marketing masquerading as media literacy and just one more way to get branded materials into schools before a captive audience of students," a​dded Bob McCannon, co-president of the Action Coalition for Media Education. The CCFC is launching a letter writing campaign to persuade Unilever to end its Axe advertising. However, the consumer goods giant refused to give in to the demands of the consumer group. Unilever spokesperson Trevor Gorin told CosmeticsDesign.com: "We have a broad portfolio of brands and clearly these brands must appeal to customers' needs and desires which are often very different." ​ He said the Axe body spray is aimed at a different group to the Dove products and so the marketing differs accordingly. "When you look at the Axe advert, it is clearly exaggerated and done with humor and irony,"​ added Gorin. "It has to be slightly edgy to appeal to young men."

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