*N.B. The above image from ActionAid is one of the concepts we put forward – it’s not what they decided to go with. But I love the sentiment 🙂
I’m a marketeer, so I love nothing more than clever copy and an ad or message that gets straight into the heart of the target audience.
So when Action Aid asked me to “go harder” with bolder language that stepped (a bit) outside their brand voice, I was thrilled.
Brave Marketing and Communications for Charities
In the charity space we have to be very mindful of the beneficiaries of our programs and services. We are careful to be authentic in how we represent the people, animals and issues we support. And of course there are our colleagues and donors and funding partners and their thoughts and feelings about how we communicate our work. All these stakeholders make for very tedious rounds of approvals and the end results can be, um, different to where we started (that’s the diplomatic way to say it).
Sometimes this means the way we tell stories can be a bit formal, or technical – lacking that bit of pizzazz, and really just not packing a punch.
But thankfully, this is not always the case.
BOLD Charity messages
As I was putting together the bolder ad creative for Action Aid, I started to look for other bold brand campaigns from charities around the world. Over the years, I’ve learnt that if I show examples of other organisations that have done something similar, such as be bold, then my [less conventional] concept is more likely to get approved.
And of oh my gosh did I LOVE finding all these amazing charity campaigns with creative, fun, smart, interesting and BOLD messages.
And also the amazing social statements that many corporate brands have made in recent years. Charities and non-profit organisations now have to compete with valued-driven marketing from companies that want to appeal to socially minded consumers.
Anyway, these were some of my favourite BOLD campaigns.
Below I’ve put a list of everything I found – but this is the short list.
Bold Feminist Campaigns
I’m all for equality and the unfortunate truth is that if we want wWomen to be equal in our society, then we actually have to put them first. We have to raise women up, promote them, champion them, deliberately give them opportunities because they’reir women and only then will we have a chance at equal representation. We’re just as smart and driven as men, but we have all been raised in the same society, that has men at the top of just about everything (government, boards, leadership roles, income, property ownership – the list goes on), and we all have the same unconscious bias.
The only way to break down these biases is to keep talking about it, keep putting women forward.
Which these campaigns are doing beautifully.
See below for a full list of Female First campaigns – but I have to call out these three as my personal faves.
1. “I got it wrong” from Ariel (laundry detergent – India)
I love the bravery in the pace and melancholy tone of this ad. I love that it’s talking to and about a generation of our society (around the world) that has been very fortunate. I love that the character is reflecting on the world and the role he played in it. I love that it is a man admitting that he was wrong, that he didn’t set the right example and that he has regret. And I love that it’s from such an ordinary product as laundry detergent. It just shows that every part of our society can contribute to change.
2. “Like a Girl” from ‘Always’ (sanitary products – USA)
This video starts with a very simple, but uncomfortable question, “When did doing something ‘Like a Girl’ become an insult?”
This type of language has infiltrated women’s language as well. We talk about ourselves in a negative context as much as men do. We belittle our strength and abilities too much – because we’re all conditioned. This type of language is learnt, from our seniors and the media we watch. But young girls haven’t yet been conditioned and we older women must check our language, our behaviour and our thinking to stamp out this type of thing.
The Always awareness campaign has been around for a long time, this and the Dove Beauty ads are some of the oldest I can remember, so I think of them as the pioneers in this space.
3. “Viva la vulva” from Libresse (sanitary products – Latin America)
I had to include this for its sheer bravery.
This homage to the vagina is in your face and totally fabulous. It’s creative and funny and multi-media and crude and I love it. I have just spent most of the last year in Latin America where they are far more comfortable with their bodies and sexuality that we repressed white people (yes, I’m white so I can generalise).
This is about celebrating being a woman, and specifically our vaginas. It’s about a full frontal assault of all of the slang and insecurities and stereotypes that women suffer because of our gender and physiology.
BOLD and Confronting Human Rights Campaigns that made a clear values statement
So Human Rights (and the environment) is my other passion area (and really gender equality/ feminism falls under this category but I didn’t want to limit the number of female focused campaigns I showed you 🙂
Some of these Human Rights campaigns are fairly well known (Nike joining in the #BlackLivesMatter conversation), others less so – but these are my faves (there are more listed at the bottom of the article).
Like women, people of colour, LGBTQI, refugees & asylum seekers and ethnic & religious communities face a lot of bias (unconscious or not), discrimination (unconscious or not) and less access to opportunities than the privileged elite (wealth and whiteness).
There are so many important issues to advocate on – but this blog is about brave and bold campaign messaging, rather than just stating the issue and the solution state [??].
- Get Over It – Stonewall (gay rights 2007)
It’s the language I like about this campaign. Its plain speak “Some people are Gay, Get Over It”.
My job as a digital consultant is to be an advocate for the user/ donor/ supporter and to always design a campaign and digital experience that is built around their needs, tasks and motivations.
In the non-profit sector, and particularly in the Human Rights space, our organisations are standing up for and trying to give a voice to marginalised and disempowered people. So it’s SUPER IMPORTANT that we use the correct language and terminology in our campaigns and content that is respectful, inclusive, and correct. An organisation working on issues for LGBTQI people must let the experiences of a person who identifies this way, to tell their own story and speak for themself. But this inclusive language of personal pro-nouns and acronyms and tone can be unfamiliar to the general public, who we are often appealing to for donations (sometimes much older sections of the public). My job as a marketer and fundraiser is to advocate for plain speak, for natural language, for words and sentences that can be easily understood, and are relatable, to the intended audience. Whilst rightly being conscious of the organisation’s constituents and brand reputation. This can be a very fine line to balance across many sectors (medical research, science based conservation, homelessness as well as human rights).
But this Stonewall campaign nails it. It broke through the jargon and the politics and just stated the issue plainly and clearly. It can be understood by everyone and it is in a language that cannot be misunderstood.
2. Nike – ‘Believe in Something’ as part of the #BlackLivesMatter movement
Many of you don’t know this, but I was born in Dallas, Texas in the south of the USA – a deeply racial place. #Racism is an area that I am constantly scrutinising my own behaviour and bias and micro-aggressions (a term I’ve recently learned and been horrified to find out that I do). Australia, like America, is an incredibly racist country. Like America our ancestors invaded this land and murdered the traditional owners and First Nations people that lived here. Even our very topical and relevant climate change issues, highlighted by the horrendous bushfires in Australia in December and January 2020, can be traced back to racism and our (Anglo- Saxon/ wWhite) inability to accept the deep and wise knowledge of our traditional owners of this land.
This ad campaign by Nike, featuring Colin Kaepernick – who lost his contract with the San Francisco 49ers (a city I lived in for 2 years as a 20 something) – because he decided not to stand during the National Anthem as a protest for the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Nike made a very clear statement and line in the sand that this is behaviour that should be commended. That standing up for truth and what’s right is more important than a career, a very lucrative career. Like you, I can be very cynical about Nike’s credibility here – but brands have power and Nike’s ad budget sent a very clear message to America, and the World, that this is an issue that must be addressed. That racism is WRONG.
This is my feeling too. Racism is Wrong and whether or not Nike capitalised on a topical ‘moment’ and opportunity, I still applaud their boldness in saying something about the issue of race in America.
3. A21 ‘Can You See Me?’ 2016 Human Trafficking/ Missing Persons campaign
This is an awareness campaign. That modern slavery and sex trafficking exist in YOUR COUNTRY.
This campaign is more confronting than bold. Is shows the brutal reality of human trafficking – for slave labour in western countries, for sex and for power and control.
A21 is the story of 2 Australians that went to Greece on holiday and learnt how many people are trafficked through Greece as a “transit country” due to its access to Europe. Greece is basically the middle man between the “source country” and the “destination country” in the despicable trafficking world.
10+ years later it has become their life’s work to stop human traffickers – they have successfully convinced 150 traffickers and rescued over 1200 people who were stolen and trafficked against their will.
The ‘Can you See Me?’ campaign started as Public Service Announcement (PSA) Campaign. A21 incredibly got endorsement from the US Department of Justice and the campaign was shown in air and sea ports in Mexico.
Then it was launched in the UK and since then has spread across the world – to Australia and Thailand. A21 is located in 14 source, transit and destination countries and has a good relationship with government and customs security in those places.
The ‘Can You See Me?’ Campaign was launched in 2016. In 2020, A21’s is also expanding its operations to focus on the difficult issues of forced labor/ modern slavery and online grooming.
Bold Non-Profit HEALTH campaigns
Health is not my particular passion project, but when I do a mental survey of all my friends and colleagues, I would say that hHealth is the biggest thing that impacts their lives and that gets them opinionated. Mamta is my barometer for younger folk and I notice that they are definitely more focused on mental health and self- love and self-care than folk my age who talk about it and care about it but not with the same deep personal affliction. Health in terms of diet and exercise is definitely the driving force (rather than preventative health like stemming alcohol and smoking and drugs I note) and definitely the high impact of serious diseases like cancer and MS and then there’s the very scary prospect of dementia amongst our parents and grandparents.
But there are some VERY good and brave campaigns around health that I found and I want to share with you – because it may well be YOUR area of interest and concern.
1. #Knowyourlemons from Worldwide Breast Cancer
I work on the National Breast Cancer Foundation here in Australia and I really appreciate how creative this awareness campaign is. As I work in digital and have to work within Facebook’s advertising policies, there are so many things that we’re not allowed to show for it being deemed too explicit (i.e. breasts) or giving medical advice or making assertions about a person’s feelings. It can be really challenging to create urgency and show need and relevance when you’re not able to actually SHOW the thing you’re talking about.
So this #Knowyourlemons campaign gets around all of that.
It’s still quite confronting (the weeping lemon) and I’m sure some people dislike their breasts being referred to as apples or lemons or melons, but hey, you can’t please everyone.
2. “Man Boobs” from MACMA (Argentina)
When I was digging around online, searching and asking for folk to tell me their favourite BOLD campaigns, this campaign was affectionately referred to as the “Breast cancer fat guy”.
This campaign is clever for all the same reasons that the Lemons campaign is. It gets a serious, difficult message out into the public domain, that would normally not be allowed (due to double standards in female nudity I must say) across to the target audience via the channels that they spend time in – namely Facebook and YouTube.
Now it’s important to say that breast cancer is serious – but we also know that the only things that get shared on the internet are either gross, sexy or funny. And breast cancer How To Videos didn’t usually fall into any of these categories, until this.
And what’s even better – is that Cancer Research UK – one of the most revered and referenced (and copied) organisations in the UK – , copied it for themselves! Here’s their version, the Brits can be funny, but I think the Argentinians got the better of them in this case.
3. “Give HIV the finger” from It’s Starts With Me
The innuendo in this this HIV awareness campaign is so fun. There are so many plays on words and actions here – it’s wonderful. And while it will capture the intended audience, it clearly caters to the haters as well, and that is a stroke of brilliance.
It takes an everyday turn of phrase and sometimes friendly insult and turns it into an active call to action. The playful poking of fun at the finger – which has so many connotations and inferences from prostate checks to G-spots to finger pointing to cricket to rudeness – is conceptually great.
All of the reasons above are why I like this campaign. But what stops me from loving it is the visuals. The very inclusive imagery just feels a bit naff, lame, cringeworthy, odd, off – to me anyway. The campaign images just don’t do it for me, but I love the concept and campaign call to action.
FYI – This campaign was to support HIV Testing Week 2017 in the UK.
Other Amazingly bold and brave campaigns
If I wrote a feature on every single campaign I documented, this would be a book (oooh, maybe there’s a good idea in this!) – but I don’t want to deprive you of the joy I had of watching all of this fabulous work from marketers and creatives and athletes and musicians and generally people that SEE the world I want to live in and took the time to sell the idea in, push it through all the objections and bring it to me.
Enjoy and you’re welcome.
- Westinghouse internal comms 1943 – “We Can Do It“
Came to fame in 1982 (was not seen in war time except internally)
- Western Union – #TheRaceIsOn
Created to support International Women’s dDay 2017 (they were a Sponsor)
German Women’s World Cup Football team
The call for equality
- Visa – “Money is Changing”
Women & Money Campaign illustrating the importance of women’s financial independence from the men in our lives.
- Libra #BloodNormal
This ran on Australian TVs in 2019.
- Axe the Tax (tampons) – SharetheDignity.com.au
- Schweppes – Dress for respect (Brazil)
I love the intersection of pop culture and youth culture alongside technology. Very visually impactful.
- Free the Nipple
A most welcome conversation post the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction”
- UNDP – the Future is Female
Now also a fabulous slogan t-shirt!
- Microsoft – #MakeWhatsNext to support International Women’s Day in 2016
3 very good ads in this campaign
- Gillette – #toxicmasculinity – We believe
This one was probably discussed around your office water cooler?
- Ladyballs – Ovarian Cancer Canada
Humour can break through difficult conversations, but its also bold language from a traditionally very sterile brand.
- Movember – Unmute
One for the Fellas
- Nike – Dream Crazier
Featuring the feminist Serena Williams
- United Colours of Benetton
This the original rule-breaker. They were the boldest ad campaigns I remember from my teenage years. I didn’t like the plainness of their fashion, but I love how brave they are. How they want to talk about all the taboo topics from Homelessness to Aids to inter-racial relationships to adoption to sexuality.
This is what sent me into Marketing. I wanted to be the creative behind this type of campaign. So simple, so startling. I love a bit of shock value – but I don’t get too much opportunity to do this type of work, but I can share it!
- Fanpage.it – Slap Her Italy newspaper 2015
A very confronting approach to addressing men’s violence against women (and girls), targeting young boys.