Advertisements: Breaking Social Norms, Spreading Smiles!

Let’s take up time travel for a few minutes.

Shall we?

Imagine it is the 1980s. People are living in  harmony, faces suffused with smiles, love knows no boundaries, and all genders are treated  equally!

Sounds familiar? NO! Because it is the 21st century and people are still incapable of  envisioning this storyline. The world of Advertisements too had experienced their journey in this  front.   

Remember the times when products claimed to choose your BodyWash wisely because a man  is not entitled to have ‘lady-scented body perfume’ (Yes, even fragrances have/had genders)!  Because if you are a light-skinned woman you will land the job of your dreams (who cares about  Qualifications). Because if you are not in perfect shape, you won’t be at the top drawer. The  times when women were earmarked for taking wise household decisions and men had to be  ‘Man Enough’. When doing laundry was (in)directed to be a women’s chore and being a  housewife all you were supposed to do was prepare the ‘Perfect Tea’ in regards to your  husband’s health. Episodes of Homosexuality wasn’t even a part of the mainstream media and  being ‘Gay’ only meant happy! 

Now you are traveling the time, right?  In 2017, the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) released a report concluding that  “stereotypes in ads can contribute to harm for adults and children”​. While stereotypes may cater  to easy communication and sometimes add a humorous element, it limits the self- realization of  people belonging to societal imageries.    

Including the ‘societal’ taboos in advertising had their repercussions for the brands. Studies  have repeatedly found that advertisements featuring stereotyped portrayals generate lower  levels of ad, brand, and product attitudes, as well as purchase intentions, than advertising  without such portrayals.  The problem with marketing using such societal norms was that targeting a particular group  could result in resentment towards the brand, lowering their business as well as their brand  value. Highlighting a selective perception may gain a positive reaction on the bottom line, but  creates a negative connotation for the brand overall.    

Now, this called for a revolution in the advertising and branding industry! In 2010, McDonald’s  aired this ad in France promoting the tagline ​“Come as you are”​. It displayed the struggles of a  teenager while confessing to his father about his sexual orientation. Ariel (under ​P&G​) launched  an ad in 2016 with a catchphrase ​#SharetheLoad. ​It showed two aged women ridiculing a man  who asks his wife ‘Why his shirt was not washed?’ and closing with a question  #IsLaundryOnlyAWomansJob

Jane Bloomfield, managing director of Kantar UK, says:

“​Our research shows there is not only an  ethical imperative but also a business imperative behind more progressive, less stereotypical ads.  BrandZ data, for example, shows brands that are gender-balanced or even slightly  ‘female-skewed’ outperform brands that are skewed more towards men – with $1bn being left on  the table by brands that focus more on men.​” 

Another report from Kantar claims that unstereotypical advertising creates a 37% more branded  impact, a 28% uplift in purchase intent, and increases the enjoyment of ads by 35%. 

That’s why Brands are painstakingly trying to abolish the portrayal of societal stigmas affiliated  with the realm of advertising. Let’s delve deep into some of the ads that changed the ways  people perceived ‘normal’ and created a ‘new normal’ around this commercial hoopla.

❏Brands & Women 


● When we talk about ads breaking the social norms, Unilever is known for its  groundbreaking avant-garde advertising. They have vowed to take down advertising with  sexist notions and underpin inspiring, progressing, and empowering ads for their  audience. 

Dove ​is a product that is very popular  among women all over the world, so  they decided to collaborate with Getty Images and the Girlgaze network and  launched Project ​#ShowUs ​in March  2019.

The ad starts with a little girl  observing all the media and banners  displayed around with “Picture Perfect Girls”. But that’s not all! They start  unfurling the ”real” beauty. That it  comes in all colours and sizes. That it  can be fierce and isn’t necessarily  Binary! This ad smashes stereotypes  appended to fairness, body shape all  at once, setting a new standard for  authentic representation of women.   

❖ Since the inception of this campaign Dove has nearly doubled its worth to a ​$4.5 billion valuation​ proving that it is very important to resonate with EVERY customer.     

❖ Now, here’s a question, when did “like a girl” mean to demean someone? Why does it  refer to someone weak? Mock someone, who is over-emotional? 

In 2015, Super Bowl aired a commercial for a company dealing with women's hygiene  which turned out to be a groundbreaking campaign. 


So ​Always​ ​came up with this beautiful ad which  commences with a question “What does it  mean to do something LIKE A GIRL”?   Several teenage girls and boys are called on the  stage and they display characteristics that  portray girls as feeble and delicate.   And when girls aged between 4-12 are  catechized about the same, they illustrate  fierce and valiance. Not only does the campaign address the problem of plummeting  confidence when girls hit puberty, but it also pulls out the taboo associated with periods.  Results?  

❖ 90m+ views.