If you’ve ever gotten a jingle stuck in your head or found yourself asking someone “where’s the beef?” you understand how influential TV commercials can be on culture. Commercials are created to sell products. There’s no getting around it. But if they’re a necessary evil, some companies are doing good at the same time. They’re using their marketing dollars to spread love, awareness and acceptance and showing a full spectrum of gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation and ability in their spots.
Here are five commercials that took risks for the sake of doing right.
“Like a Girl,” Always
It’s the iconic TV commercial for Always that changed the way millions of people think about a common phrase. Acclaimed documentary filmmaker, Lauren Greenfield, gathered girls and boys of various ages and prompted them to do things “like a girl” on a camera. Through their candid responses, we clearly see how this simple phrase has become an insult and we need to change how we use it. The positive message struck a chord. The extended commercial has 60 million views on YouTube and the followup spot has nearly 40 million.
“Not Sorry,” Pantene
Here’s another commercial that challenges us to think about the power of language. Pantene illuminates the way that women are socialized to apologize even when they’re not at fault in situations at work, at home and even while waiting at the doctor’s office. Pantene wants women to be aware that they might unconsciously be putting themselves in subservient positions by saying “sorry” much more often than men do. Messages of women empowerment in advertising pay off big, too. In a survey conducted by SheKnows, 52% of women said they bought a product specifically because of the way women were portrayed in its advertising.
“Good For Your Heart,” Cheerios
When a cute little girl discovers that Cheerios is good for heart health, she shows her dad how much she loves him by pouring an entire box on his chest while he naps on the sofa. It’s a charming moment of innocence and caring that ended up causing a lot of controversy when it came out a couple years ago. Why? Because the little girl’s mom is white and her dad is African-American. But Cheerios refused to give in to the hateful comments that filled its YouTube page. Instead, they brought the family back for a sequel commercial that aired during the Super Bowl and sent a powerful message of support to millions of interracial families around the world.
“Made of More,” Guinness
Beer commercials don’t have to be filled with bros and bikinis. In this moving spot put out by Guinness, a group of friends in wheelchairs gets together to play a grueling game of basketball. But there’s a twist. The commercial’s message of acceptance, love and dignity for people living with disabilities is important. Outside of Artie Abrams on Glee, there are few images in mainstream media of people in wheelchairs, so it’s a big deal that Guinness decided to dedicate an entire commercial to celebrating them. It’s true that “the choices we make reveal the true nature of our character.” And sometimes a commercial can reveal the true nature of a company.
“This is Wholesome,” Honey Maid
Honey Maid could easily have cast traditional families in this commercial selling crackers, but instead, they chose to show families of all kinds, including a single parent, two dads, and an interracial family enjoying their products. Sadly, Honey Maid’s message of love being at the core of a family was hard for some people to accept. Commenters on YouTube left hateful messages. But Honey Maid fought back and created a beautiful rebuttal commercial called simply, “Love,” in which the nasty comments were turned into a work of art.