Simple: Is it ‘woke washing’ or do they mean it, man?

little mixUnilever is attempting to show teens how much it cares about their online well-being in its latest Simple campaign, featuring everyone’s favourite girl band, Little Mix.
Devised by TMW Unlimited, with backing from anti-cyberbullying charity Ditch The Label, the digital and social media push was launched to coincide with the recent Stop Cyberbullying Day.
The activity follows the publication of the Annual Bullying Survey, which showed that nearly one in three teens experiences cyberbullying, and, according to the blurb, “aims to stand up for those who’ve been affected and promote a kinder environment on social media”.
The 60-second film shows band members Perrie, Jessy, Leigh-Anne and Jade tackling a “hate wall” filled with insults and harsh words before they “wipe away” the unkind words, transforming it into a wall of kinder, more positive words.
Not that they actually speak, of course, the commentary is left to the lyrics of the Little Mix hit “Strip”. To quote: “Take off all my make-up ’cause I love what’s under it, Rub off all your words, don’t give a, uh, I’m over it, Jiggle all this weight, yeah, you know I love all of this; Finally love me naked, sexiest when I’m confident.”
The film ends with a message to “Choose Kindness”, that just so happens to link to the Simple brand’s refreshed positioning: Kind to Skin, Planet and People.
Additional content for Twitter features Little Mix sharing their own stories, explaining how they have personally dealt with trolls and harsh comments, along with their tips on how to create a kinder environment on social media.
The campaign will run across VOD, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
Unilever senior brand manager Libby Sherriff insists the activity “perfectly highlights the importance of ‘choosing kindness’ in our lives”.
She added: “Little Mix are the perfect partnership to bring the campaign to life and having the support of the girls and Ditch the Label was crucial in conveying the message of anti-bullying.”
TMW Unlimited creative director Tom Harman, however, ensured he did not stray off message when he said: “Everyone knows Simple as a brand that’s Kind to Skin, but this campaign is the first time we’re building on that brand heritage to spread kindness in a relevant way for our Gen Z audience. With Little Mix leading our mission, we’re encouraging people to make social platforms a kinder place, one word or comment at a time.”
So, what is the consensus around the Decision Marketing office? Are the Little Mixers worthy ambassadors for the anti-bullying brigade, or are they just aiming to get a few more downloads of Strip? And, how about Unilever, are they simply exploiting the issue to flog some more Simple stuff?
Well, funnily enough, we are hardly the target market but according to our Gen Z insiders, Little Mix band members have all been the victims of online bullying themselves. When they first released Strip, they even defiantly displayed the insults they have received over the years – including “fat”, “ugly” and “slutty” – by scrawling them on their naked bodies. Whether that is suitable imagery for your average 13-year-old is open to debate but who are we to judge?
Unilever, meanwhile, has been heavily involved in marketing gender-equity issues for years – including its 14-year-old Dove Campaign for Real Beauty – and has improved its overall environmental footprint while increasing its positive social impact. The firm’s new CEO has even lamented the rise of “woke-washing” in advertising, claiming the “purpose category” is being polluted by brands that fail to take real action. (Just don’t mention former Conservative Party activist Mark Clarke, the alleged bully boy who used to work in the Unilever marketing department).
Decision Marketing Adometer: 7 out of 10 (no matter what we think, the Gen Zers love it).

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