Unilever Bans Super Skinny Models in its Ads

10 May 2007

LONDON: The late Duchess of Windsor, aka Wallis Simpson, once said: "You can never be too rich or too thin," a mantra echoed by Hollywood starlets and other celebrity magazine wannabes.

But for every super-skinny actress or model there are many more generously proportioned people whose body image should be celebrated, so says Anglo-Dutch consumer goods maker Unilever.

The consumer goods colossus has issued an edict to its marketing and advertising teams that only models with a healthy Body Mass Index (the proportion of fat to skin and bones according to the United Nations) can be used to sell its brands worldwide.

Preaches president of home and personal care Ralph Kugler: "Unilever believes in a healthy balanced diet and that both men and women have the right to feel comfortable with their bodies and not suffer from lack of self-esteem brought on by images of excessive slimness."

Its Dove brand, which includes soaps and body creams, has already been using larger models in its "Real Beauty" campaign.

The debate over 'size zero' models has been exercising health professionals in Europe and the US following deaths from apparent eating disorders among the catwalk classes.

At the same time, however, childhood obesity is troubling Unilever, hence its announcement of plans to further curb its marketing to children by promoting only healthier products to youngsters aged between six and 11.

This follows the company's decision last year to restrict direct advertising to the under-sixes of brands such as Wall's ice creams.

Opines president of foods Vindi Banga: "We see this as a further step in responding to growing concerns about rising levels of obesity and dietary deficiency, particularly among children.

"This supports Unilever's broader strategy to improve the overall nutritional composition of our foods and to help parents and their children make 'healthier choices' without compromising on taste and enjoyment."

Data sourced from Brand Republic (UK); additional content by WARC staff