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Woke-Washing Ruining Advertisers' Credibility & Trust, Says Unilever Chief

By Publications Checkout
Woke-Washing Ruining Advertisers' Credibility & Trust, Says Unilever Chief

Unilever’s CEO Alan Jope has warned that woke-washing (brand campaigns promising to improve the world but failing to take real action) is ‘undermining the advertising industry’s credibility and trust’.

Speaking at the 2019 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Jope said that “purposeful marketing is at an important crossroads”.

“Purpose is one of the most exciting opportunities I’ve seen for this industry in my 35 years of marketing. Done properly, done responsibly, it will help us restore trust in our industry, unlock greater creativity in our work, and grow the brands we love,” Jope explained.

“Woke-washing is beginning to infect our industry. It’s polluting purpose. It’s putting in peril the very thing which offers us the opportunity to help tackle many of the world’s issues.

“What’s more, it threatens to further destroy trust in our industry, when it’s already in short supply,” he said.


Lack Of Purpose

Jope highlighted the high number of companies and brands that were undermining the industry by launching campaigns which aren’t backing up what their brand says with what their brand does.

“Purpose-led brand communications is not just a matter of ‘make them cry, make them buy’. It’s about action in the world,” Jope added.

Jope stressed that advertisers and their agencies should hold each other to account, even suggesting that agencies reject campaign briefs from brands that don’t “walk the talk”.

He noted that while advertisers and agencies are not following through on their promises, customers are paying attention.

He said customers are rapidly shifting towards “brands that ‘get it’ and embrace a role in society that goes well beyond what they sell”.


According to Kantar Purpose 2020, brands recognised for their strong commitment to purpose have grown at twice the rate of others over the last 12 years.

He confirmed that “brands without a purpose will have no long-term future with Unilever”.

© 2019 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Article by Aidan O’Sullivan. Click sign-up to subscribe to Checkout.

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