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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. 

❖ 1100+ earned-media placements and 4.4bn+ media impressions in the  first three months. 

❖ 177,000 #LikeAGirl tweets in the first three months, including many  celebrities. 

❖ Always’ dollar share grew 1.4pts to 59.6% 

❖ Purchase intent grew up to 92% among the audience who viewed the  video on Youtube. 

❏Brands and Secularism   

❖ Ever heard of ​‘UniTEA in DiversiTEA’​? Well, you might have guessed that the next  segment is about bonding over a cup of Tea. There has always been a bit of a  wrangle now and then among different cultures in our country. Here’s an ad that  shows a cup of Tea is unfettered by religions. 

It all started in 2014 when ​Brookebond  concocted an ad showcasing how a ‘cup of  chai’ can break barriers and bring people  together of different religions. 

A family is seen to struggle with finding their  house keys when a woman (their neighbour), of  a different religion, invites them for a cup of tea  until they can resolve their issue.

However the  man initially shows a bit of unwillingness towards the offer, but then the subtle savour of ​Red Label​ tea propels them to come together over  a steaming cup of ​chai ​overlooking all their differences.

This advertisement beautifully captures  the friendship of two different cultures portraying the ‘Taste of Togetherness’.  

As a result, in the last five years that they have been on this journey, Brooke Bond Red Label has  been showered with more brand love than ever before with accolades like Cannes Grand prix,  and has been rewarded with ​market leadership​ and now Brooke Bond Red Label is ​India’s No.1  tea brand.     

❖ Two colours of faith, marching towards each other intensely, with things like bricks and  glass bottles in their hands, limns a scene of a feud between them right? But only the  religions have different colors, CRICKET is ONE! 

UNITED COLOURS OF BENETTON in 2016,  presented a sensitive and encouraging  advertisement which aimed to  unstereotype the pensive thoughts  looming around different religions of our  country which was called ‘One Faith’. 

It showed two groups of boys, one  dressed in the stereotypical attire of  Muslims and the other in the stereotypical  attire of Hindus walking towards each  other looking combative. It creates a  sense of obvious dispute in the mind of  the viewers.

The climax turns out to be an  amicable match of cricket. It exudes the  idea that it is not necessary for two different faiths to always have an aggressive relationship.  The impact? 

#UnitedByPlay hashtag became the no. 1 trending hashtag in India on Twitter on  Independence Day and the video went ‘‘viral’ in just 10 hours. 

❖ The film was covered by ‘​Campaigns Of The World​’, ‘​Campaign Brief Asia​’, ‘​Ads  Of The World​’, ‘​Best Ads on TV​’ and many more. 

❖ And let alone the Brand image, UCB received more than 20 million impressions  on Twitter. 

❏ Brands ‘COMING OUT of the CLOSET’   


The stigmas and taboos surrounding Homosexuality were and still is a matter of  paramount concern in many democracies. The least a marketing campaign can do is to  alleviate the apprehensions about the circumstance. 

The First A.I. Marriage 

Love destination wedding? Guess what,  Alexa and Siri love it too! It’s right. On 2nd  April 2019, Alexa and Siri tied the knot at  Belvedere Castle in Vienna to celebrate the  idea of love that transcends beyond gender.  Vienna Tourist Board partnered with  Serviceplan-Munich to bring forth a  ceremonial exchange of vows between the  two Artificial Intelligence for the campaign  supporting LGBTQ+ rights.

The guests at the  wedding included LGBTQ+ celebrities from  Austria who attended the ceremony a month ahead of the EuroPride event held in June.  

When two rival tech-savvy giants mesh together to radiate such strong messages, the world  instinctively becomes a better place to live in.  The response?  

❖ 2.9 million people watched the wedding documentary on YouTube. 

❖ "Vienna is a cosmopolitan kaleidoscope—a modern world city, where different  lifestyles, diversity and respect are actively lived and where our many differences  are perceived as our greatest strength,"​ said Austria’s tourism chief Norbert  Kettner. 

The road to success is never ​S​T​R​A​I​G​H​T.    f a s t r a c k ​ continuously aims to resonate with  the youth and with this campaign they  targeted the taboo associated with the  LGBTQ community. The 30 seconds  advertisement kicks off with two young  women ‘Coming Out of the Closet’ and  making their dresses, sloping off while  leaving the viewers to infer the rest. It 

 It encouraged the youth to unhand the fossilised societal norms and “Move On”.  The advertisement created a fuzz on the internet. While some upbraided it, others were  applauding it.   Having said that, the ad had its upshot: 

❖ Fastrack gained a whopping number of 6.8 mn followers on Facebook and was  viewed over 100,000 times on Youtube 

❖ It helped in breaking the public myth and created a sensation among the youth. 

❖ Fastrack today has a valuation of Rs 850 cr with a CAGR of 25% to 30%. 

❏The Finale 


 “I live bigger than your labels”.   

It is OKAY to be dark-skinned. It is OKAY not to worry about ​‘What the Society will Think?’​. It is  OKAY to go beyond the boundaries of Love. Most importantly, it is OKAY to be your true self. We  should have a lot more Media campaigns as the above mentioned, and incorporate advertising  portrayals beyond the mainstream, ‘Society Standardized’ consumers.

Advertisements have a  direct road to reaching an audience and it is high time they changed their gameplay. Talking in terms of business opportunities, progressive political messaging in advertising has  become a highly profitable way for major corporations to amplify their marketing. Twitter gave  Nike an estimated $289 million in free advertising for its anti-racist campaign in 2018, with an  increase in their online sale by 31%. 

According to Witeck, young Americans support LGBTQ rights more than their elders and  Accenture projected that the buying power of Millennials alone will reach $1.4 trillion in 2020.   

"What's changing perceptions for companies are younger consumers and customers behaving in  a more accepting way," ​Witeck said. 

Ad Hoc Member- S.P.A.R.S.H. Committee || Ad-hoc member- Marketing Club || Ad-hoc member - Prévision'21 | Broadband ||MBA Student- Batch [20-22] || SIDTM

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