New study uncovers the latest data-driven human insights to help eradicate stereotypes from advertising.

Publish Date: Sep 26, 2019

During Advertising Week New York, the Unstereotype Alliance and Google revealed high-level findings of a new study on search that not only uncovered powerful insights into consumer intent, but how consumer searches can be used to surface the truth around ‘Invisible Identities.’ 

Stereotypes are vastly complex, spanning race, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, income, education and the infinite variations within human society, which can lead to unfounded assumptions about certain audiences. Still, there are too many people who are rendered invisible by the advertising industry and “one size fits all” approaches will not be effective. In order to achieve truly diverse, inclusive and unstereotypical advertising, marketers need to understand how different social identities intersect with gender. 
Google conducted a Human Truths study that  looked at the intersectionality reflected in searches containing the word FOR, an indicator that there is an aspect of the searchers’ identity that is critically important. The power of “_FOR_” highlighted four ‘Invisible Identities,’ which were discussed during an Advertising Week panel moderated by Jess Weiner, CEO And Cultural Expert at Talk to Jess featuring Jason Klein, Head of Human Truths at Google; Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media; Esi Eggleston-Bracy, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of North America, Beauty and Personal Care for Unilever; and Daniel Seymour, Director of UN Women’s Strategic Partnerships Division. 

Four ‘Invisible Identities’ were discussed:
● Latinx Specificity
Representing Latin culture accurately and fighting against negative stereotypes is integral for brands hoping to capture the hearts and minds of this population. In the last year, the percentage of “_FOR_” searches that used a Latinx identity shifted even more towards country identification and doubled in growth versus generic Latinx “_FOR_” searches. 

● Motivated Singles – Single Moms and Single Travelers 
“FOR Single __” searches have grown by double digits in the past year, many of which focus on single moms or single travelers or both. According to research from the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of kids living in families with two parents decreased from 88 to 69 percent between 1960 and 2016, so it’s no surprise that search reflects this need.  Aspects of intersectionality like single parenthood are impacting what a consumer needs, especially from experiences like travel.

● Age Qualifiers
Several search categories like hairstyling, dating and apparel are also growing with age qualifiers, that is, “__ FOR women/men over [age]”.  Searchers may be age-qualifying their searches unnecessarily as there is no "approved" hairstyle for specific ages. However, the real question becomes how brands respond to this aspect of consumer behavior.

● Brown & Beautiful 
Beyoncé’s viral song “Brown Skin Girl” has touched the hearts of many this summer but it’s long been evident as a positive descriptor in FOR searches as well.  Especially within common CPG categories, we see an embracing of the term across ethnicities and by some who don’t fit neatly into traditional census categories. 

“We like to be optimistic about how marketing is evolving. At their core, we believe marketers want to speak to their consumers authentically, but they may not know how.  The Power of FOR is a method to explore what aspects of intersectionality are really important to your consumers, using their own language as a logical starting point.” stated Jason Klein, Head of Human Truths at Google.
These findings combined with a conscious effort to create unstereotypical content also makes good business sense. The influence of advertising shapes how people think in fundamental ways and it is essential for the industry to take a lead in challenging the negative stereotypes and encourage all to think bigger to better reflect the diversity of real life. By committing to progressive change and demonstrating a willingness to connect deeper with their audiences, forward thinking brands will reap the benefits in terms of goodwill, as well as in sales and engagement. 

Launched in 2017, the Unstereotype Alliance was convened by UN Women to bring together a powerful and growing global coalition of leading industry players behind the common goal of eliminating gender bias and harmful stereotypes affecting all people from their advertising. With over 40 members globally including IPG, Safaricom and Unilever, the Unstereotype Alliance has pioneered tools, research and processes for measurement to help accelerate unstereotyped portrayals of the under-represented, marginalized, socially excluded and stigmatized groups.  

“If we are serious about changing stereotypes in advertising, we need quality data that sheds light on consumers’ sense of identity,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women. “This study from Google, one of the Unstereotype Alliance’s founding members, reveals the importance of identity and intersectionality in connecting with audiences, as well as the cutting-edge ways in which data can help us to eliminate harmful stereotypes. These are essential tools for ensuring gender equality and inclusivity."
In the year ahead, Unstereotype Alliance members will continue to build on the success and collaboration of the first two years in an effort to shape the future of marketing for the better. The widespread adoption, implementation and advocacy for the Unstereotype Alliance’s mission has and will continue to help brands tackle stereotypes and ultimately make lasting, positive societal changes in different markets around the world.

For more information about the Unstereotype Alliance and the full findings of this research, please visit

About Unstereotype Alliance
The Unstereotype Alliance is a thought and action platform that uses advertising as a force for good to drive positive change. It seeks to eradicate harmful gender-based stereotypes. The alliance is focused on empowering women in all their diversity (race, class, age, ability, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, language, education, etc.) and addressing harmful masculinities to help create a gender equal world. 

Tara Mullins