Eight Effective Campaigns Pushing for Social and Environmental Change

These campaigns mark an evolution towards authenticity, inclusion, and socially conscious values.

Our culture is shifting to a more humanistic, socially and environmentally conscious priority and brands and advertising agencies are responding. They understand that speaking to these issues will help them reach the mindful consumer.

These brands and agencies take stands on issues including systemic racism, gender discrimination, homophobia, and environmental causes. What’s most notable is that campaigns go beyond paying lip service to important issues. They are creating actionable content.

Here are eight recent campaigns created artfully, with intention. They make a statement, make us think, and ultimately, help create real change the world needs to see.

1. McCann + Mastercard: True Name

 

The transgender and non-binary community is often the most targeted by discrimination and violence. When trans people have a credit card whose name doesn’t match preconceptions about their physical appearance, they often meet prejudice, violence, or police action. Here, Mastercard helps the trans community take control of their own identity, and in turn, their own safety and confidence.

Mastercard now enables transgender customers to use their chosen names on their credit and debit cards, instead of their birth names. The True Name campaign launched without the partnership of any banks, but after seeing a soar in interest and demand from these ads, banks quickly fell in line. Now you can find chosen name options at most major banks. These types of empathy-based details will save lives and make room for more acceptance. McCann and Mastercard won a prestigious Clio award for the campaign in 2021.

2. BBDO Belgium + State Of The Arts:
#thisisourculture / – 60% Culture

In November 2019, the Flemish government decided to cut arts funding by 60%. This region of Belgium is famous for art world masters like Van Eyck, Bosch, Rubens, Magritte, and contemporary greats like Luc Tuymans. Open art platform State of the Arts created a visual campaign in protest. They convinced over 500 artists to cover 60% of their work in Belgium’s national color, yellow. The campaign went viral and people started using it as a sign of protest. It started being used on social media images, in shop windows, and even in concert. After an outpouring of support and in-person protests, the Prime Minister reinstated funding for the arts, and it is still a talking point today. Brilliant.

3.Publicis Italy + Heineken: Shutter Ads

Heineken pays it forward with #backthebars shutter ads. During the lockdown of 2020, bars were among the hardest hit. Heineken took their budget for outdoor ad spaces away from billboards & banners, and instead paid bars directly to advertise on their shutters. They first built out the advertisements onto the shuttered doors of bars around Spain and expanded to over 5,000 shutters across the world. This completely changed the way outdoor ad space is viewed and created a new, more sustainable way to advertise. The best part? 100% of the bars that had Heineken ads on their shutters are still open today. The campaign was so effective and compelling that it won Outdoor Grand Prix At Cannes Lions 2021.

4. Orbitz: “Travel As You Are”

 

Since the 1990s, Orbitz has led the path for inclusion and LGBTQIA equality in the travel industry. Directed by celebrated photographer Cass Bird and set to a beautiful cover of Leslie Gore’s feminist classic “You don’t own me” by queer artist Serpentwithfeet. The campaign itself is a beautiful ode to diversity and queer couples happily enjoying their own love while traveling on their own terms.

Orbitz brand director Carey Malloy says “COVID-19 gave us the opportunity to pause and rethink our business strategy, and we concluded that we didn’t actually want to be travel generalists. We wanted to refocus on our foundational values and the work that the brand started 20 years ago to advocate for LGBTQIA travel, equality, and inclusion, but with a new call to action for the times we’re living in.”

5. FCB Chicago + The City of Chicago: Boards of Change

 

The Black Lives Matter protests that happened in the summer of 2020 were some of the biggest and most historical demonstrations in US history. The City of Chicago found a way to make use of the painted wood panels that covered the storefronts that were damaged during the protests. The Boards of Change campaign, designed by agencies FCBX, Lord + Thomas and Current Global became a way to encourage underrepresented people to register and participate in the voting process.

Buildings all over the US boarded up their windows, covering them with incredible protest art and graffiti. After being removed, the city of Chicago used the boards to build registration boxes throughout the city. They also used sanctioned street ads to help direct the public towards the location of the poll boxes, and the empowering work done in Chicago went viral. The city and nation saw record numbers of voter registration and voter turnouts. These boards and poll booths now live on display in the DuSable Museum of African American History.

6. Ogilvy Shanghai + Hong Kong: GreenPeace — #CleanAirNow

Two ads from Greenpeace’s Clean Air Now campaign

The legendary advertising team at Ogilvy Hong Kong and Shanghai teamed up to create powerful diptychs showing ways in which the planet is connected, especially when it comes to pollution. We see fires and tornadoes and flash flooding on the news, but might not consider the impact our own actions have on the other end of the planet. Here, the images artfully connect the dots. Air pollution is the most harmful to humans, even though land & water pollutants seem to have the most press. These images, beautiful and striking – and with impeccable composition – show the urgent action we all need to be taking today, to make our planet more livable in the future.

7. Mekanism + OkCupid — Every Single Person

OKCupid’s “Every Single Person” campaign

After many lonely months inside, with some hope for things opening up, the world is ready to find love again. Or maybe even to just get weird together again. OkCupid, the dating service known to champion inclusivity, has made room for everyone. An early advocate for inclusivity, it was the first app to offer a range of options. There are 22 different gender identities and 20 different orientations to select from.

The brand, collaborating with agency Mekanism commissioned Italian surrealist artists Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari to create a bold, modern campaign. It features a diverse range of users — from Pansexuals to tree huggers. OkCupid’s goal was to stand out as the leader of inclusive dating in a time when dating apps have received new users in record numbers.

8. Apple iPhone 12 Pro  “Hometown” Campaign

Two of Bethany Mollenkof’s billboards for Apple’s iPhone 12 “Hometown” campaign.

In honor of Black History Month, Apple commissioned more than 30 Black photographers to create images that represent their cultures and communities. The expansive work, shown through February 2021, ranged from intimate portraits to powerful architectural photography. These photographers, hailing from all over the country created series that honors the nuance, strength, and dimensionality of Black culture in the United States. Themes of community, family, history, joy, and resilience run through the photographs, all created on the iPhone 12. Going beyond the visuals, Apple hosted workshops and tutorials with several of the artists, with intention of elevating Black art, and using it as a tool to promote empathy and change.

These campaigns show how large corporations and advertising agencies are being pushed to take action beyond just words and images. From transforming window boards into voting booths, to improving the lives of trans and non-binary customers, these brands and agencies are making actionable steps towards progress. As consumers, we are in the midst of honesty and empathy-based revolution, and we are here for it!

About the author:
Jordana Sheara is an LA-based commercial & editorial photographer and copywriter specializing in travel, portraiture, lifestyle, food, and fashion photography. Her work is known for its natural ethereal aesthetic and strong sense of storytelling. Clients include British Vogue, Seychelles, Caviar, Refinery 29, A+E Networks Latin America.