UN Women videos tackle cultural nuance, 'woke washing' and 'tokenistic' diversity

Content series from the Unstereotype Alliance features industry leaders on diversity and inclusion issues

Published On
May 27, 2022

Editor's Pick

A new content series launched by UN Women this week features marketers and agency leaders speaking on topics such as getting cultural nuance correct, and avoiding stereotypes and "woke washing." 

The initiative, from the U.K. Chapter of the UN Women's Unstereotype Alliance, comes in the wake of research that showed that 64% marketers thought that "getting it wrong" was holding them back from creating content that better relfected society.

The organization created series of 10 minute films featuring conversations from industry figures across various diversity and inclusion themes, incluidng "Lived Experiences," "How to Achieve Authentic Representation," "The Power of Cultural Nuance," and more.

Speakers include Rania and Trevor Robinson of agency Quiet Storm, Shani Dhanda, disability activist and Naomi Sesay, head of creative diversity at Channel 4. Brand marketers from Diageo, Cadbury and Unilever also feature, alongside agency representatives from IPG, Adam&Eve/DDB, Kantar, Elvis, RSA Films and Omnicom.


The series, available on YouTube, is aimed at anyone working in marketing, advertising, communications, and content creation, according to Keith Weed, former Unilever chief marketing and communications officer and chair of the UK chapter of the Unstereotype Alliance.


"We wanted to create an informal but informative resource for people to use as an inspiring reference point," said Weed in an email interview with Ad Age. "There are some fantastic DE&I playbooks out there, but this content format has allowed us to go a little deeper into how people have gone about driving change, what the lessons have been, what good looks like and what they would do differently next time. All the contributors have been incredibly candid, which means we get some unique and personal takeaways that we haven’t seen or heard before."


One of the key themes to have emerged is cultural nuance, said Weed. "We know that stereotypes are one of the biggest barriers to equality worldwide so understanding how we tackle them and how we move from tokenistic portrayals to unstereotypical character depictions that can help create a more inclusive society is a key area of focus."


"One of the key priorities for the Unstereotype Alliance is to help move the industry away from the notion that representation is enough," he added. "There is a body of evidence to show that representation alone does not shift the dial. In fact, if we only focus on filling ads with diverse characters only to have them act in ways that reinforce unhelpful stereotypes, this can do more harm than good. The Conversations for Change series really unpacks this and gives brilliant advice on how we can achieve authentic representation that avoids tokenism."

Weed also highlighted the "clear business and economic advantage" to authentic potrayals. "Our latest data from the Unstereotype Metric shows that progressive female portrayals can increase Brand Power by 36%, and what brand or business can afford to miss that opportunity? "