Breaking Ground for Social Responsibility: A Reel of 8 Global Ad Campaigns

Cover image created by Tanya Khosla

Wave goodbye, it’s the end of an era.

Advertising, which used to be all about making the consumer aspire to a certain standard of living, is evolving into its next natural form. We’re looking at a shift that focuses on quality of life, instead — and we couldn’t be happier about it.

Wake up, it’s 2020. What are the values you stand for? And are they only skin-deep?

Think of advertising as an ongoing conversation between a brand, a marketer and a consumer — today, the feedback loop is amplified with the power of digital media. This means that advertisers don’t only run and broadcast campaigns, they have the opportunity to listen to consumers about what truly matters to them.

As professionals working in this space, we are shaping minds and conversations everyday.

This is why it’s important that we are mindful about context and use inclusive language, why we need to move the needle towards a world where diverse stories across the spectrum all find a place. The devil is in the details, and this is how we can drive behavioural and societal change.

So where does it start?

Inclusive marketing starts with counter-stereotypes, to create a vision that consumers can resonate with and embrace. We’ve witnessed a shift to campaigns featuring stories of real people told sensitively that have the power to move us far more than — say — an ad with women swooning over the smell of deodorant that still has us rolling our eyes all these years later.

Here is a reel of global ad campaigns that set an example for social responsibility. Tune in:

Apple — Diversity & Inclusion — Open

When a heavyweight brand like Apple comes out in staunch support of diversity and inclusion, it makes a real difference. This campaign ties back in seamlessly with a concept that we believe in: that holistic media solutions are the way forward — we can no longer look at any story or idea in silos, only in how it is connected with storytelling that is conscious of where our society stands on different issues.

Apple — Inclusion & Diversity — Open

What stands out about this campaign is the emphasis on differences not just being celebrated, but essential — a veritable shot in the arm for diversity. This line gets us every time, “The truth is we don’t see things the same. The power is we don’t see things the same.”

Find Them on Bumble — The Most Inspiring New Yorkers

Pandemic or no pandemic — what could possibly be more important than connection? Leveraging digital media to create a community makes perfect sense with the technology we have at our fingertips today. Bumble — through their Bumble Date, Bumble Bizz and Bumble BFF verticals — does this by showing us the stories of inspiring people living in New York who shirk labels and just come as they are.

Find Them on Bumble — The Most Inspiring New Yorkers

What stands out about this campaign is, “Think of all the people that we don’t even know yet, that can have such an impact.” Imagine the possibilities, this ad tells us, creating a sense of anticipation and giving us the space to dream.

Love Has No Labels | Diversity & Inclusion | Ad Council

This one’s a classic! Regardless of race, age, gender, religion, sexuality, or disability, we are all the same, this ad tells us. Our values need to be rooted in humanity and acceptance of diverse narratives. It urges us to rethink our biases and prejudices; the change needs to start within ourselves and amongst those close to us, before we can spread the love to our community.

Love Has No Labels | Diversity & Inclusion | Ad Council

What stands out about this campaign is its sheer simplicity and the warm and accepting lens through which it looks at the otherwise complex human experience, emphasising that no one lived experience is less than the other. We’d say this marks a milestone in the journey towards creating the free and inclusive world we want to live in.

My Black is Beautiful (Procter & Gamble: The Talk)

If only we could rest easy in the knowledge that there would be a vaccine for racism one day. This poignant ad campaign confronts the reality of the biases that African Americans have to face and the environment they raise their children in.

If it’s diversity we want to move towards as a culture, we need to first examine the idea of identity. Zadie Smith’s musings on racial identity and, specifically, the movability of identity come to mind, “I find the interesting interpretive quality my shade creates in others curious… sometimes funny, sometimes upsetting, sometimes alarming. But it’s an interesting philosophical lesson in identity — what exactly it is, and how much of it is ruled by others’ perception of you. So how much of it is yours? These aren’t questions I have an answer to, but I’ve always been curious about them.”

These questions have been on our minds too.

Procter & Gamble: The Talk

What stands out about the ad is that it addresses the need for African-American parents to have the talk about the biases their children will come up against in life with them, and how to deal with them, while underscoring the hope that we can one day eliminate the need to have it altogether.

Google Pixel 2 | The Picture Perfect Life

Mental health isn’t just the absence of mental disorders, it’s an integral part of our overall health. This ad sensitively introduces you to people in a way that endears them to us — with images and videos like you would see across your own feeds — before mentioning what they all share in common.

With an intersectional outlook towards mental health, it encourages people to reach out for mental healthcare should they need it.

Google Pixel 2 | The Picture Perfect Life

What stands out is just how much this campaign conveyed in just a minute, capturing the potential of digital media in evocative storytelling. “Not every picture tells the whole story. Question your lens.”

Microsoft — Reindeer Games | Featuring Owen and The Xbox Adaptive Controller

The holiday season is just around the corner, and this 2018 ad is a great reminder of the power of community.

Nine-year-old Owen is passionate about gaming; he has Escobar Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, and lives with limited mobility. In “Reindeer Games”, we get a moving glimpse into how inclusive technology like the The Xbox Adaptive Controller can be empowering for people like Owen, who live with disabilities. News of Owen’s game spreads through the town as his friends all come out in support of him, culminating in him winning the game with his friends cheering him on.

Commercial Ads 2018 — Microsoft — Reindeer Games | Featuring Owen and The Xbox Adaptive Controller

What stands out about this ad is undoubtedly the last line, which distils the essence of the feel-good spot, “When everybody plays, we all win.”

Be a Lady They Said

How often have we been told as women what to do, how to act, what to wear — or witnessed women in our lives being treated this way?

Claire Rothstein’s fashion film flips the male gaze on its head to take an honest look at the absurd standards imposed on women. We like to think of it as the counterpart to the Gillette Man Enough Campaign we mentioned in our last article; the patriarchy really does spare no one.

Be a lady they said

What stands out about this ad is Cynthia Nixon’s unflinching performance that is an open challenge to the dubious double standards society imposes upon women.

Renowned Australian actor David Field takes you through the depiction of a horrifying and violent death to convey what really happens in the whaling industry, that claims that a whale dies within minutes. He shows us how those traumatic few minutes can stretch out in agonising detail and asks us to think in what world this could possibly be considered humane or ethical.

Sea Shepherd is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organisation, and this campaign by The Works went on to win over 15 international awards.

Sea Shepherd campaign

What stands out is David Field’s evocative performance and the use of empathy as a powerful and effective storytelling tool.

The bottom line

Diversity not only highlights what we have in common, it allows us to look at things through a holistic lens, reminding us of a fundamental truth of existence: to live in harmony with ourselves, with people from all walks of life and cultures, and with our planet.

Inclusive campaigns designed by Tanya Khosla

“Replacing the old story of separation with the new story of unity and embracing radical pluralism is the imperative of our time,” says Satish Kumar, a peace and environment activist. “Diversity is the dance of one life force. Unity celebrates itself in the diversity of life.”

Written by Aditi Dharmadhikari & Dona Varghese

A collaborative network that crafts media solutions for businesses focused on sustainability and making a social impact.