Breaking down barriers: 10 powerful social justice adverts that hit the mark

By Elizabeth Arif-Fear

We all know the feeling… With adverts all over TV, radio and social media, we can often feel bombarded with publicity.

However, every now and again a real gem of an advert appears with a powerful message. And aren’t they a lovely surprise!

Whether they make you laugh, cry or scream in anger, they bring a powerful message about important issues such combatting racism, sexism and homophobia.

So, with this is mind, I’d like to share ten fab adverts (in no particular order) that really hit the mark, highlighting important social and human rights issues.

Take a look!

1. Aero Mexico (USA): DNA Discount

You can’t help but laugh at this anti-racism video designed at mocking anti-Mexican sentiment in the USA.

What better way to fight prejudice by revealing just how close we really are as humans – often closer than we may realise!

Yes, DNA tests have multiple (wider) uses you know!

2. Allegro (Poland): English for beginners

A heartwarming treasure, it’s great to see how languages can help us cross divides and bring people together – no matter how old you are!

Celebrating British-Polish relations, this great advert also gives a nod to racial equality.

Fantastic work Allegro!

3. Bodyform (UK): #wombstories

Women’s bodies are powerful. They’re fortresses of pleasure, pain and life itself.

However, they’re often met with shame, silence and major misconceptions when it comes to sexuality, menstruation and pregnancy.

It’s therefore great to see #wombstories shedding light on the real highs and lows that women go through – all thanks to Mother Nature!

4. Gillette: The Best Men Can Be

How often do we hear about positive masculinity in the fight for women’s rights?

Well, the truth is: not very often. And that’s a big problem – part of the same problem women face.

We can only have a gender-equal world if men join us allies and embrace a joint sense of positive masculinity and responsibility towards gender equality. So, well done for promoting this Gillette!

5. Virgin Travel (USA): What if we treated straight couples like we treat gay couples on holiday?

Homophobia is sadly an ongoing reality in todays world and combatting this doesn’t simply mean the legalisation of same-sex marriage and prosecution of perpetrators of hate crime.

Yep, it also means changing attitudes and this great video by Virgin Travel aims to do this.

By switching common attitudes towards same-sex couples to non-queer couples, we’re being to asked to put ourselves in the shoes of our queer siblings to understand the need for inclusion not “spectacles” and micro-aggressions. Important stuff…

6. War Child (The Netherlands): Batman

All children deserve to live a happy, safe life with access to education, shelter and safe places to play.

However, when war comes along, refugee children are often denied these vital necessities.

In this advert, War Child shows how one child’s escapism through their imagination is their way of coping in a crisis. Incredibly hard hitting indeed.

7. Black and Abroad (USA): Go Back to Africa

Sick of being told to “Go back to Africa” by racists back in the USA, Black and Abroad decided to turn this slur on their head to promote African travel and culture.

And, of course: there are a lot of beautiful places to discover!

Good one guys – the racists are the ones missing out!

8. Bench (The Philippines): How long can you keep a secret?

Coming out to your family can be incredibly nerve-wracking – especially if you’re worried that your parents may hold homophobic/biphobic views.

In this cute advert, we’re shown the journey of one boy who’s scared to come out as gay to his father. Little does he know, his dad loves him more than he imagined.

This is the kind of parenting we love – thank you Bench!

9. Save The Children (UK): Still The Most Shocking Second A Day

Switching a stereotype on its head is always powerful. And that’s what this advert does incredibly well.

It shows how refugee children are affected in ways we often don’t imagine – even when prejudice in our society is often be (in)directly responsible.

We’re all equal and need to share each other’s struggles – including those of refugee children. Thank you Save The Children.

10. Quiet Storm (UK): Create Not Hate

Racist stereotypes often associate being Black with being “aggressive”. And as is always the case: racist stereotypes need to be challenged.

So when a white couple see a group of young Black men seemingly fighting, we’re taken on a short journey of falsehood vs. reality.

Revealing the ignorance of people’s prejudices, Quiet Storm are showing exactly how we need to shut down pre-conceptions of people of colour.

As we’ve seen, these adverts highlight (the ignorance of) prejudices through role reversal, by asking us to walk in another persons’ shoes and by showing the critical highs and lows of peoples struggles.

Only by adding a bit of humour and empathy, by turning stereotypes upside down and by thinking about the experiences of others can we break down barriers, fight prejudice and work towards a more equal, inclusive and just society for all.

Thank you to the advert makers and readers: please do share any interesting videos that you’ve come across!

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