9 Ad Campaigns That Aimed to Break Barriers -- While Making a Buck (PHOTOS)

Lane Bryant

More and more brands are turning to "nontraditional" ad campaigns that make some kind of cultural or political statement -- from advocating body positivity to celebrating diverse families. Do you think they're making a difference ... or just making money?


They didn't invent it, but Kenneth Cole has been employing the activism-as-advertising strategy since as far back as 1986. The company called out Imelda Marcos and her shoe habit, took a stand against nuclear arms, and advocated for the American Foundation for AIDS Research -- all in one year. Other companies have followed suit since then, but it seems like in the last year or so, we've really reached critical mass with this kind of approach.

The question is -- are these campaigns doing any good? Are they genuine attempts by the people behind a brand to further a cause, to make a positive change in the world, to use their voices and reach for good? Or, are they simply cynical moves by big, wealthy companies to further their credibility as "cool" brands -- and thereby get bigger and even wealthier?

I'd say the answer to that question is, YES.

It's both. No smart executive puts big dollars behind an advertising campaign purely out of the goodness of his or her heart. But that doesn't mean that the people behind a brand don't believe in their message -- even as they're theoretically benefiting by it. And, more importantly, no matter who's making money off an ad campaign, the fact still remains that those words and images do have an impact on the world.

I don't care how much money Campbell's Soup made as a result of putting out this ad. The world gets to see these two dads sharing a sweet moment with their little boy, and that's only a good thing. See for yourself:

Of course, not all ad campaigns like this are as successful -- some can be blatantly disingenuous, and read purely as a mercenary act of commerce.

Click through the slideshow to see recent examples of ad campaigns that try to share a greater message, break a barrier, or tell a story that's not being told. Though some of them fall short, I'd argue that overall, the more messages being put out into our culture that contradict the same old poisonous messages we always see -- skinny is beautiful; white is beautiful; homogeny is beautiful; only youth is beautiful -- the better.


Image via Lane Bryant / Plus Is Equal