Advertisers in Asia-Pacific have been too “lazy” about addressing stereotyping in their campaigns, according to a top Unilever executive who says the industry has some way to go to catch up with societal changes in parts of the region.

In an address to the Spikes Asia 2018 event in Singapore last week, Aline Santos, the FMCG giant’s EVP of global marketing and head of global diversity and inclusion, admonished advertisers who fail to depict people in a more progressive manner.

“The region is starting to see things that they’ve never seen before… there is a lot of progress in places you wouldn’t expect. And yet you look to advertising and, you know, women are only portrayed as housewives, as someone that doesn’t have a very important career, or intelligent or a leader,” she told CNBC in an interview.

“It’s really, really a big gap between the reality of those countries and how we are portraying people in advertising,” she added.

“The only excuse that I can find with this big gap that I see is that, we as an industry, we have been lazy – lazy because we are very clever people, we understand society, we are close to consumers, but when we are developing [advertising] scripts and when we are approving scripts from the marketing side, we are probably not thinking about it.”

Her criticism went beyond Unilever’s simultaneous promotion of its progressive “Unstereotype” campaign because it was underpinned by hard research that the company had conducted in the first half of the year.

Working with research firm Ebiquity, Unilever analysed at least 500 TV and online ads in the beauty and personal care, homecare and food categories that were served in China, India and Indonesia between January 1 and July 31.

It found that a mere 1% of these ads portrayed women as intelligent or in a leadership role, just 3% included women over the age of 40, not a single one showed anyone with a disability, while none showed men cooking.

Men also came in for negative stereotyping, the research found, with just 3% of the ads showing them as fathers and only 18% of the ads considered to represent men progressively.

As Santos explained: “It’s so difficult [for men]. You have to be super-successful, you have to be very smart, you have to be a leader, you have to be sporty, you have to have a six-pack. It’s impossible to be a man, isn’t it?”

Sourced from CNBC; additional content by WARC staff