How Ad/PR Campaigns Could (and Should) Change the World

By: Desirae Lindow

A study conducted in the United Kingdom suggests that 42% of people believe advertisements can change the world. “Consumers are aligned with industry practitioners in that they want to see more from businesses – and their advertising – when it comes to key social topics. While this has already been happening for some time, and advertising has been a catalyst for increased consumer awareness, there is seemingly a growing consumer demand,” (Stewart, 2020). As Ad+PR professionals, how do we meet these consumer demands? 

Throughout our history, many brands have contributed to changing our world. In 2004, Dove launched a campaign called Real Beauty. The purpose of this campaign was to display real women who weren’t professional models on their billboard advertisements and ask passerbys to decide whether the women pictured were ‘flawed or flawless.’ This campaign is renowned as one of the top five campaigns of the century because it began a new era in advertising using real bodies to promote positive body image (Evans, 2019).

Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the National Anthem in 2016 as a form of peaceful protest towards the racial injustices happening across the United States. In 2018, Nike capitalized on this polarizing stance the former NFL player took to launch a campaign on the premise of, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. #Justdoit” (Guilory, 2018). Although the campaign was heavily criticized due to its polarization, it was a great success and resulted in $6 billion in earnings for Nike (Abad-Santos, 2018). 

In 2017, 84 Lumber produced a commercial for the NFL Superbowl with a meaningful message. “The will to succeed is always welcome here.” The ad addressed the controversy about the wall at the Mexican border that was proposed by U.S. President Donald Trump. Rather than further polarizing the issue, the ad seeks to humanize the story of people who suffer from third world conditions in Mexico and are seeking a better life in the U.S. (Guilory, 2018).

Lastly, Patagonia is a brand that has taken an environmental stance from the very beginning. When you make a purchase, a portion of the proceeds are donated to creating environmental change. Their website is specific in terms of listing their platform on environmental issues, and there are opportunities to learn more about how you can make a difference.  In 2019, Patagonia closed their stores for a few hours on September 20 for employees to march alongside other activists in the Global Climate Strike. Further, they began launching a campaign to raise awareness for Climate Week protests. Their predominantly digital campaign featured teen activists from around the world who were urging congress and other political leaders that “there is no room in government for climate deniers,” (Beer, 2019). Rose Marcario, the CEO of Patagonia, took a stance and said, “Our customers are demanding we act—this generation of youth is not backing down and neither should we.” Marcario also said, “We need to step up, to move forward with optimism and American innovation and ingenuity to invest in solutions and fight the fight of our lives to save our home planet,” (Beer, 2019).

Good campaigns generate sales and promote brand awareness, but great campaigns change the world. Dove, Nike, 84 Lumber, and Patagonia leveraged these hot topic issues and utilized them to create brand awareness and boost sales while simultaneously creating a difference. Inevitably, there are risks involved with tackling polarized issues across the world; but these campaigns became more successful by taking risks. 

As Ad/PR professionals, having the ability to launch these massive campaigns in an effort to make the world a better place is powerful. It all comes down to this: If you could use your brand identity to make a difference, would you? You should

Works Cited

Abad-Santos, A. (2018, September 24). Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad sparked a boycott – and earned $6 billion for Nike. Retrieved October 09, 2020, from 

Beer, J. (2019, September 19). Patagonia enlists teen activists to speak out for Global Climate Strike campaign. Retrieved September 25, 2020, from

Byars, T. (2019, September 20). Facing Extinction. Retrieved October 09, 2020, from 

Evans, G. (2019, June 11). 5 ad campaigns that changed the world. Retrieved September 25, 2020, from 

Guilory, S. (2018, October 29). 5 Brands That Have a Social Impact with Their PR Campaigns. Retrieved September 25, 2020, from 

Stewart, R. (2020, January 30). 42% of people believe ads can change the world, despite trust crisis. Retrieved September 25, 2020, from 

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