Every so often a commercial rises from the pack and sparks debate by challenging conventions.
Coca-Cola addressed race and celebrated multiculturalism with its familiar song, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” Keep America Beautiful raised awareness of littering with a crying American Indian.
More and more advertisers today are addressing bullying, homophobia, sexism and stereotypes by breaking them down. These companies aren’t trying to just win a gay pot ‘o’ gold — they’re taking a stand, in your face and pushing the national conversation.
Here are 7 ads that did it best over the years:
Procter & Gamble’s new online Gillette commercial takes on bullying and sexism while challenging the company’s own iconic slogan, “The best a man can get” by asking, “Is it?”
In text message bubbles, the word “sissy” appears on screen with other negative comments.
“It’s been going on far too long,” the voiceover says.
Former NFL player and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” actor Terry Crews, a sexual assault survivor, is included. “Men need to hold other men accountable,” he says. The ad ends on this note: “The boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.”
Related: Is this honey ad featuring “three bears” the best commercial ever made? You decide.
Predictably, the ad triggered a backlash against Gillette, but overall the ad appears to be polling well. (Which Gillette’s internal surveys no doubt predicted before it was released.)
2. AXE (Unilever)
Gillette isn’t the first men’s personal-care brand to take an evolved outlook on masculinity. Unilever’s Axe broke down its own bro branding approach and ran the “Find Your Magic” spot on the Super Bowl in 2016 that featured a drag ball and championed individuality.
A year later, Axe upped its game and asked, “Is it OK for guys to experiment with other guys?” Or “be the little spoon” or “to wear pink?”
3. HONEY MAID (Mondelez)
Leveraging children’s love for graham crackers, Mondelez’s Honey Maid weighed in on the importance of diversity and inclusion of families with its three-year “This is Wholesome” campaign that featured gay male fathers.
The so-called One Million Moms club predictably stirred up conservatives, causing Mondelez to double down and actually feature some of the hateful comments in its clap-back spot, turning them all into a sculpture of the word “love.”
In January, AT&T released a gay dads commercial, “Just OK is not OK,” where the babysitter can’t seem to remember anything about the children she’s about to care for.
Ancient troll Peter LaBarbera and his Americans For Truth group rolled out the usual homophobic rants to try to shame AT&T but that kind of negative nelly complaint doesn’t hold the same weight today it did a decade ago when marriage equality is entrenching and parenting is increasingly common.
5. DIET PEPSI (Pepsi-Cola)
This spot from 2005 reverses stereotypes and is all about ogling men – by supermodel Cindy Crawford and Carson Kressley, a breakout star from the first “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” It turned heads among Super Bowl TV watchers.
Long before its Colin Kaepernick NFL flag-kneeling ad, Nike ran a groundbreaking and empowering spot that featured the legendary “Just do it” slogan and marathon runner Ric Munoz who had HIV. It challenged the way people thought about the stigma of the virus.
Ikea broke ground that few have forgotten when, in 1994, it became the first advertiser to depict a same-sex couple doing something together so ordinary as buying a dining table. The revolutionary ad led an Ikea store in Long Island, N.Y., to be evacuated due to a related bomb threat, but the retailer has since included dozens of LGBT references in its ads globally over the decades since.
Michael Wilke has covered LGBTQ issues in advertising since 1992, is the founder of Commercial Closet/AdRespect.org, and Senior US Consultant for LGBTQ marketing and diversity firm Out Now.
Gillette ad backfired big time. It was sexist, racist, bigoted and spewed negative stereotypes. Imagine an ad directed toward women that addressed toxic femininity.
+iamru2 OK, you really are just a pathetic troll. I actually defended your question on the other thread because I thought it was sincere–but you’re just another self-hating pile of garbage. Gillette ad enraged the toxic male asswipes; that, you moron, is the OPPOSITE of backfiring big time. The toxic little broflakes made themselves laughingstocks yet again. That would be a huge success.
Imagine it? There have been a number of adverts over the years addressing toxic behaviours amongst women. The difference is that the general reaction was that of, ‘yeah, those are not good behaviours’, rather than a cohort of fragile egos screaming objections to the notion of ‘we can do better than this’. Anyone who objects to the message that ‘men are capable are better as an overall group’, and ‘we should stop allowing other men to be violent or denigrating towards others by calling them out on their antisocial behaviours’ needs to take a long hard look at themselves. But, then, the main traits of toxic femininity are the way women treat other women (including trans women), or gay men, as a result of internalising toxic attitudes, while toxic masculinity is about men excusing violent or prejudiced behaviours towards anyone who doesn’t fit a narrow and woefully outdated notion of what it means to be ‘masculine’. We, as a global society, are evolving beyond such notions. And, as the article clearly states, the Gillette ad has NOT ‘backfired big time’; it has merely exposed the dark underbelly of toxic masculinity. For the most part it is being met with positive reactions, and the man-babies of the world crying because their pacifier phrase ‘boys will be boys’ is no longer acceptable need to grow up. A ‘real man’ does not need to make himself feel bigger by diminishing others.
I’d be way more impressed if they re-directed the cost of their pretentious marketing into reducing the extortionate cost of their product – which is totally unjustified by the cost of production. Shaving products are among the biggest rip-offs out there.
@iamru2 – bless your heart sweetie, you really try to be relevant. Why dontcha just head on out to the veranda and drink yourself a little mint julep. Give the rest of us a break. Thanks hon…
Homophobia is another one of those mental illnesses that science needs to resolve as it is bad for society.
Can Queerty show a bit of respect for its readers and just remove hate comments by obvious trolls? There’s zero doubt about this one – it’s not relevant to the post; it’s just hate.
I love these types of adds, it makes me so happy seeing companies using their social media platforms to help people. It is so important that those who have the influence, the money, time and resources to make content like this and share it for large scale audiences, this is what will help create the social change we need.
Advertisements play such an important role in our society and are a huge influence in how people act, values and beliefs they share and project on others and future generations.
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