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5 Ads That Moved Us And 5 More That Made Us Cringe: Best & Worst Of 2015

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By Shambhavi Saxena for Cake

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

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.

3. I Love Ugly‘s Jewellery Promos

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.

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  1. Ankita Chatterjee

    It's strange that the OLX ad doesn't feature in this list. The song that plays in the background is beautifully sung by Sona Mohapatra but that's where the beauty end. It's a horrible ad. Why does the woman feel more dependent post marriage? Just because she minds taking a taxi. Haha. How incredulous!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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