Coca-Cola, Unilever, Mars: 5 things that mattered this week and why

Diet Coke hopes quirky will get people to try its new flavours

Diet Coke has launched a campaign for its new flavours and the ad is noticeably scaled down when compared to rival Pepsi, which launched its new campaign last week.

Where Pepsi opted for a blockbuster storyline starring comedy heavyweight Paul Rudd, Diet Coke featured rising star Tanya Reynolds in an amusing but demure audition setting. Perhaps the brand is opting to be more cautious with marketing spend when it has so many new products to promote.

After all, the launch comes at a busy time for Coca-Cola in the UK. There have been a number of product launches in recent months including water brand Aquarius and Coke’s first own-brand energy drink Coca-Cola Energy. This arguably means that campaigns need to be smaller or more targeted as the company tries to ensure its marketing keeps up with the fast pace of its innovation.

That’s not to say Diet Coke isn’t investing. The brand underwent a £10m revamp in February 2018 in a bid to push consumers towards its healthier options. Younger consumers – Diet Coke’s target audience – will perhaps respond better to more authentic and funny marketing than a big-spend ad. MF

READ MORE: Coca-Cola highlights its innovation credentials in campaign for new Diet Coke flavours

Unilever pushes its marketers to challenge stereotypes through DNA tests


Unilever is broadening out its Unsterotype alliance beyond sexist portrayals as it looks to challenge its marketers on other stereotypes. The initiative launched in 2016 with the aim of eradicating stereotypes in advertising, but Unilever’s primary focus in the past has been on changing gendered advertising.

In an interesting move the FMCG giant DNA tested 63 of its marketers and partners to challenge their views on ethnicity. This was then used as a “primer” to spark discussion in University College London classes on stereotyping.

Unilever is a brand that is really leading the way when it comes to diversity. Unilever’s executive vice-president of global marketing and head of diversity and inclusion, Aline Santos, has made it her mission to ensure that minorities are represented both in advertising and in the business.

The brand is ensuring that it is not only hiring a more diverse range of people but also crucially that it is fostering an environment where those minorities can speak up. It’s all well and good hiring a broader range of people but only if the culture allows them to bring their experiences to the table – something which Santos recognises.

Of course, there is the business case too. Unilever claims 96% of consumers now see its brands in a positive way and free of stereotypes. Younger consumers in particular will hold businesses to account if the advertising doesn’t match up to what’s going on internally. MF

READ MORE: Unilever gets marketers to take DNA tests to challenge stereotypes beyond gender

Mars tackles gender inequality in its ads


Mars has become the latest brand to tackle the issue of gender inequality in its advertising after finding that men outnumber women three to two.

The research, conducted by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media on behalf of Mars, also found that 22% of male characters in its ads are leaders versus 17% of female characters. Plus that men are more than twice as likely to be shown working as women, with 26% of male characters depicted with an occupation compared to 11% of female characters.

“We are inadvertently portraying women in situations that are not representative of what society is today and even less our vision of what society should be,” says Mars Wrigley’s chief growth officer Berta de Pablos, talking to Marketing Week at Cannes Lions 2019.

The research from Mars is important as only by examining when and to what extent bias exists can brands do something about it. From de Pablos’s comments, it sounds like Mars has concrete plans in place to tackle the inequality as well, from publishing and publicising its performance to working with partners on what is expected.

But Mars should not stop there. Women are just one area of society that isn’t well represented in advertising, not just at Mars but across the industry. Hopefully Mars has plans to examine other under-served audiences including the LGBTQ+ and BAME communities, as well as those with disabilities. SV

READ MORE: Mars’s three-point strategy to improve gender equality in its advertising

Focus on short-termism is breaking the link between creativity and effectiveness

There has been a creeping sense in the ad industry that all is not well in the world of creativity. So along comes marketing consultant Peter Field with a report that proves just that.

His analysis of almost 600 case studies in the IPA databank shows that the effectiveness of creatively-awarded campaigns has fallen to its lowest level in 24 years as the marketing industry increasingly shifts to more short-term campaigns.

It found that the average number of very large business effects reported by campaigns that have been creatively awarded fell to little more than 1.4 in 2018, down from 1.9 in 2008 and the lowest it has been in the 24-year run of the data.

He puts that decline down to a rise in short-termism. Among creatively awarded campaigns, the proportion that were short-term (evaluated over periods of six months or less) has risen from around 10% in 2002 to 25% in 2018, although the growth has levelled off over the past four years.

Field also blames award judges, calling them out for favouring “disposable” creativity – short-term ideas many of which are focused on relatively low-budget, digitally focused campaigns. The percentage of short-term campaigns receiving creative awards has risen to almost 40%. Until 2010 that figure was below 5%.

The report should be concerning reading for any marketer that wants marketing to be seen as more than the colouring-in department. And Field doesn’t mince his words when he talks about the impact this shift could have.

“We cannot afford to go on being complacent; left unchecked, the catastrophic decline in creative effectiveness will ultimately weaken support for creativity among general management. Money spent on creativity will become ‘non-working’ budget and will be cut.”

Marketers, you have been warned. SV

READ MORE: Link between creativity and effectiveness ‘broken’ as short-termism rises

Advertisers launch first global alliance to tackle safety in digital media

What recognises the role advertisers can play in collectively pushing to improve the safety of online environments, is rallying publishers and platforms to do more to address harmful content, and acknowledges its collective power to significantly improve the health of the media ecosystem?

This week, 16 advertisers, alongside media companies and platforms including Google and Facebook, a number of agencies and industry associations, unveiled their latest attempt in a long line of attempts to “rapidly improve digital safety”.

They are calling themselves the Global Alliance for Responsible Media – or, as it will no doubt be shortened to, GARM.

It claims to mark the first time an alliance that represents “all sides of the media industry” is forming, but it certainly isn’t the first time these kinds of provocation have been made.

‘We must act together,’ ‘It’s on all of us to act,’ ‘harness our collective efforts for the greater good,’ ‘Responsibility is critical,’ ‘It is critical that we build trust,’ etc, etc – all verbatim quotes from the press release, which landed in inboxes earlier this week to coincide with Cannes, which is where the alliance had its first “formal” meeting on Wednesday (all formal meetings happen on yachts in the French Riviera now).

A working group (presumably not currently on a big boat) will meet regularly to report back on its progress to members and the wider industry.

We can only hope that these critical calls and rallying cries for responsibility, change and action will start to bear fruit soon. Because there are only so many critical calls and rallying cries we can take before it starts to feel a bit like the boy who cried wolf. EH

READ MORE: Brands and tech giants come together to launch first digital safety alliance

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