It’s surprising how comforting watching a simple ad can be, when you realize someone behind the camera and someone on the production team and the marketing team really, really care about what they’re presenting to the world. It can be incredibly comforting to see ads break sexist stereotypes about men and women, and challenge the way we look at bodies. And as you have all these warm fuzzy feelings, boom, a horrible ad with the worst everything comes crashing through your television screen making you groan for ten hours. Every year is full of both these kinds of ad campaign, and they both deserve a mention as 2015 winds down. There were some companies that handled their ad campaigns cleverly and with finesse, and many of them making a social point. And there were some who missed by miles.
Let’s take a look at the former kind first.
1. Gatorade – Unmatched Serena Williams
You’ve seen those sports or energy drink ads before, they’ve probably got a bunch of sweaty dudes drinking bright liquids. Now this ad trumps all of those. This is how you capitalize on positive female role models. We’ve all been asked what we want to be when we grow up, but little Serena Williams just blew us away with that ‘go-get-em’ attitude.
2. Always – Like A Girl
This feminine hygiene giant ran an excellent ad campaign targeting young girls and women and also the sexist language we tend to fling around like nobody’s business. As their hashtag suggests, the campaign dug deep into “like a girl,” the penultimate put-down in many folks’ dictionaries and turned it around into an expression of empowerment.
3. Wells Fargo – Learning Sign Language
This ad is so great because it deals with multiple tricky issues all at once – two lesbian moms, disability, and also, if I may add, race. And the narrative is just plain beautiful. Sure it may not have much to do with financial services on the face of it, but I’d rather see this on my TV, than ads of a couple rolling in the sack in order to sell me biscuits (I’m looking at you, Milano). So thanks.
4. City Gym (Google Small Businesses)
First, this ad features trans men. How many FTM stories do you even get to see? Second, it’s portrayed an actually transition with sensitivity. Third, it’s actually linking its narrative to the services advertised (learn something, Milano). Need I say more?
5. The Salvation Army – The Dress
Do you remember the dress? The one with the colours nobody could seem to agree on? Yes, that one. We love how the Salvation Army was able to take a ridiculous, frivolous internet trend and use it to draw our attention to something urgent. It made us stop dead in our tracks, and realize that we just never made the raucous we did for a dress when it came to domestic abuse. The caption reads: “The only illusion is if you think it was her choice. One in six women are victims of abuse. Stop abuse against women.”
And now, gird yer loins, friends, because we’re going to go through the other part of our round up. The worst ad campaigns.
1. Bloomingdale’s Christmas Catalogue
This ad had some intense date-rape vibes to it that could have easily been avoided if the company had cared a little. While Bloomingdale’s apologized for their lapse of judgement (hmm, where have we heard that before) it’s safe to say this was our least favourite ad campaign ever.
2. HERO Vote No!
In response to the Houston Equal Opportunity Ordinance, a bunch of transphobes allowed their half-baked opinions to get the better of their reason (but were we really expecting anything else of transphobes?) and this ad campaign was born. Not only does it club vulnerable trans minorities with sex offenders, it actually influenced a lot of people to reject the otherwise progressive Ordinance! Now that’s some excellent fear mongering.
New Zealand men’s clothing company, I Love Ugly, obviously thought there was no problem with using sexualized segments of women’s bodies to promote their clunky looking jewellery (well, at least they know it’s ugly). Sex sells. We’ve all heard that before. But ain’t nobody buying this disastrous ad-campaign anytime soon, if they know what’s good.
4. Carl’s Jr. And The Boob – I mean Food Fetish
Talk about using women’s bodies to sell things. If you thought this ad was just ‘cheeky,’ allow us to offer you our strongest NOPE ever. We’re tired of women’s bodies being served up for straight-male consumption, and we’re even more tired of how actually trade in parts of bodies for actual food. If you have to rely on sexism to sell your burger, it’s gotta be a pretty gross burger, buddy.
5. Dabur Honey‘s Jealous Husbands
Ah, the mangalsutra. In India (for the Hindus), that’s the thing the you see the husband adjust around his wife’s neck. The old symbol worn by married women to say “hey, I’m taken.” Sorry lady, but there’s nothing cute about a man asserting his ownership over you, or you taking all of that to be a validation of your beauty and your worth as a woman. What also really gets our goat is this tweet the company put out too:
Because only jealousy can drive your husband to this. Not the need of sharing housework. Never that, no. Damn, somebody get Dabur some help, please?
The last five on our list show that we have a long way to go before we can actually think of our ads as a reflection of the advancing societies we claim we are a part of, but one likes to think the first five demonstrate our potential. As we say goodbye to 2015, we should also say goodbye to the racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist and other bigoted behaviour that we perpetuate in our speech, writing, visual preferences and more. Time for that new year’s resolution, yeah?
This article was originally published here on Cake.