DAVOS — Advertisers have an obligation to address inequality and bias, said P&G North America president Carolyn Tastad at a panel discussion in Davos today.

Tastad, speaking at the Equality Lounge, pointed out that this approach had resulted in P&G tackling gender inequality via its #LikeAGirl and #ShareTheLoad campaigns. 

"There is an obligation within advertising to think about what stories you want to tell," said Tastad. "We have to think about our stories in terms of how we cast characters, the roles those characters play, or the issues they take on."

"When it’s done right it can build brand equity, sell product and influence mindsets," added Tastad.

Tastad was speaking in a discussion entitled Flipping The Script with The Female Quotient CEO Shelley Zalis and journalist Tina Brown, the latter of whom pointed out that popular culture such as advertising spots or TV shows like Big Little Lies "are the things that change mindsets, far more than any homilies or declarations on top of the mountain, dare I say."

Tastad noted that the challenge lay in finding the insight that would turn a campaign into popular culture. "When you relate to storytelling it has such tremendous impact and can really spark a movement."

As the world's largest advertiser, P&G can bring enormous influence to bear on issues such as gender, racial, sexual, disability and socio-economic inequality, added Tastad. "From a P&G standpoint, we are very committed to leveraging our voice in media and advertising to really tackle bias. It is not only our opportunity but our obligation to have our voice stand for something."

At an earlier Equality Lounge discussion, meanwhile, Unilever CMO/CCO Keith Weed also outlined how the group’s advertising was changing after it researched across the industry and found only 3% of all ads showed women in leadership positions, 2% showed women with obvious intelligence and 1% showed women with a sense of humour.

Weed made his comments during a panel that shared personal stories from senior female marketers on using their voice in the workplace and as leaders, featuring Uber chief brand officer Bozoma Saint John, Facebook’s VP of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson, JP Morgan Chase CMO Kristin Lemkau, Ad Council CEO Lisa Sherman and Zalis. The panellists agreed on the need to build more empathy, authenticity and vulnerability into corporate culture.