Credibility threatened by woke-washing

Alan Jope, the Unilever CEO, has warned that woke-washing is undermining the advertising industry’s credibility and trust.

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

Woke-washing, whereby a brand campaign promises to improve the world but there is no real action or effect, has become a debated topic as communication and action become more closely intertwined. Jope noted that Unilever would not be party to what he called ‘false purpose’ refuse to work or engage agencies the company believes indulges in these practices.

This message follows last week’s announcement that the company’s 28 Sustainable Living Brands, including Dove, Knorr, Persil/OMO, and Rexona, grew 69 per cent faster than the rest of the business in 2018, compared to 47 per cent in 2017.

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