Has the ad industry taken a hefty shot of truth serum lately? Though historically the media has long been accused of promoting unrealistic societal standards, a newfound emphasis on more honest representation runs the gamut from increased racial diversity and body image to decreased sexism and ageism.
Here’s a quick snapshot of the inclusive campaigns out there today:
Once known as a preppy mall chain for suburban tweens, these days American Eagle is among those leading the inclusivity charge and demonstrating that progressive branding can positively impact business. In 2014, the company launched its #AerieReal campaign to promote its lingerie and swimwear, and has remained Photoshop-free in an effort to endorse unaltered beauty of all shapes and sizes. Celebs like Emma Roberts and curvy English model Iskra Lawrence are the gorgeous faces (and bodies) behind this celebrated campaign. But the body positivity didn’t stop there—Aerie also forged a partnership with the National Eating Disorder Association to spark a national conversation around wellness and authenticity.
Caitlyn Jenner for MAC Cosmetics
Transgender equality has become a red-hot social issue recently. At a time when the nation is in a heated debate over North Carolina legislation that bans transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice, campaigns like MAC’s AIDS Fund Transgender Initiative have taken a stand. While some brands may shy away from tackling a divisive topic, the cosmetic giant joined forces with Olympian-turned-reality-star Caitlyn Jenner to debut a lipstick collaboration dubbed Finally Free. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is: 100 percent of the proceeds from the lipstick shade are donated to the company’s AIDS Fund Transgender Initiative. Since 1994, MAC has been in a driving force in the culture’s pro-trans trajectory and a host of other equality efforts. Its Viva Glam campaign and beauty products have raised capital and awareness of the global pandemic of HIV and AIDS. Jenner joins a roster of mega-stars fighting for gender equality that has included Elton John, Boy George, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Ariana Grande. With this new initiative, MAC has further cemented its position in the market as a makeup brand that aims to empower all people to feel beautiful in their own skin—regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
AXE Find Your Magic
Racial minorities have rarely been featured at the forefront of brand communications—but that’s beginning to change. Brands such as General Mills, Old Navy, Swiffer, and Coca-Cola have broadened the racial spectrum in their ads by featuring Arab Americans, African Americans and interracial families. Perhaps someday we can just focus on the cereal, soda, or cleaning supply at hand—but until that day comes, these popular ads are paving the way for other brands and businesses to step up their diversity game. AXE’s recent anthem TV spot features a multitude of races, as well as one man strutting it in heels and another one dancing in a wheelchair. Turns out, bad hygiene and body odor don’t discriminate. The takeaway message keeps the brand’s focus on masculinity, but with a mature and modern twist.
So what does it mean?
All of these ads bring us to the question: How can we do more to harness our creative powers for good? From Apple’s diverse emojis to Mattel’s line of curvy and colorful Barbies to British Vogue’s 100-year-old model, lots of brands are jumping on the inclusivity bandwagon. And while there may not be an instant remedy to such complicated issues, campaigns like these ones are at least a solid step in the right direction, helping to gradually chip away at old-school stereotypes and encouraging open conversations about challenging the status quo. Here’s hoping the inclusivity trend is here to stay.
Can you think of any awesomely inclusive ads we missed? Let us know!