Rewind 2016: Advertising campaigns that broke social stereotypes

2016 saw many campaigns that dealt with social causes. Here are some that were the most popular

e4m by Venkata Susmita Biswas
Updated: Jan 4, 2017 9:02 AM
Rewind 2016: Advertising campaigns that broke social stereotypes

In 2016, social media campaigns pushed the envelope further with clever and sensitive campaigns that addressed social evils and sought to break stereotypes. We look at some of the campaigns that held the attention of the audience and successfully communicated the message they meant to deliver. Brands like Ariel Matic, Tanishq, Nike, Brooke Bond Red Label, and Arrow led campaigns that empowered women, challenged stereotypes about beauty standards, and brought transgender persons into the mainstream media. In a year when the world over women, and minorities were targeted and abused; some of India’s best advertising and marketing campaigns showed the way.

Brooke Bond Red Label

Brooke Bond has never skirted around social issues. The 146-year old brand has earlier attempted to normalise what are generally considered taboos in conservative Indian communities. From Hindu-Muslim unity to accepting live-in relationships the brand has explored different facets of the Indian mind-set. Early this year Brooke Bond featured a transgender pop band – 6 Pack Band - in its commercial for tea.

The video conceptualised by Y-Films (a division of Yash Raj Films) is essentially a cover of Pharrell William’s ‘Happy’. The band comprising six transgender singers participated in the video that also featured singer Sonu Nigam to help further the cause of gender equality in India. Brooke Bond Red Label has traditionally viewed tea as a tool to bridge gaps in the community and this initiative was no different. The 5 minute video garnered more than 2 lakh views on Youtube. In June, Brooke Bond Red Label 6 Pack Band won the Glass Lions Grand Prix at the 63rd International Festival of Creativity in Cannes.

Ariel Matic

Early in the year we saw the leading washing detergent brand Ariel reprise its ‘Share the load’ campaign. In the 2015 ad, two elderly women were shown discussing the progress women have made with regard to pursuing full-time careers and attaining great heights to earn more than their husbands even. The son of one of the women interrupts the conversation, he asks his wife who is busy with office work why she has not washed his green shirt. The ad ends with the question – is laundry only a woman’s job? – appearing on the screen.

This year the brand took the message further by showing men leading by example. In the 2-minute ad conceptualised by BBDO, a father apologises to his daughter on behalf of all fathers and men for setting the wrong example by not lending a hand in household chores including doing laundry. Towards the end of the advertisement, the father returns home and takes the initiative to do his laundry. This advertisement ends with a different question: why is laundry only a mother’s job? This ad has received 2.5 million Youtube views since its release on February 19.

Tanishq Mia

Tanishq continued its legacy of creating socially relevant advertising campaigns in 2016. This year Tanishq’s ode to working women everywhere was an empowering campaign that recognised the never say die spirit of women. This ad came after a break of 3 years, and it was worth the wait. In the previous advertisement from 2013 Tanishq wanted to convey the message through their ad campaign that ‘Never think twice before taking some effort to look good at work place, because your work will always speaks for itself.’

In 2016, Tanishq Mia stepped up that campaign by recognising the hurdles, savagery, and ugliness that women need to fight in their workplaces to prove their worth and claim their right. The film addresses real workplace stereotypes like an expectant mother who is a considered a temporary resource or that a beautiful woman cannot be as smart. The ad was a salutation and tribute to women who have overcome all kinds of odds in their professional lives. Actor Nandita Das lent her voice for the ad film conceptualised by Lowe Lintas. The ad was viewed nearly three lakh times on Youtube since its release on September 10th.


Nike’s powerful Da Da Ding campaign was a tribute to the neglected fraction of sportspersons in India – women. The ad that starred Deepika Padukone, and a few Indian sportswomen went viral after its release in July. The ad garnered more that 1.2 million views on Facebook in two days.

In a nation like India where women are marginalised and their successes go unnoticed, Nike drew attention to the gritty women folk who achieve physical feats and excel in sporting activities. The ad also broke another stereotype that sports mean only cricket. In the ad the spotlight was on a variety of sports including badminton, boxing, hockey, football, squash, and surfing. The ad was in contrast to its previous ads that mostly featured cricket and popular Indian cricketers. This ad that was conceptualised by Wieden+Kennedy was a refreshing addition to Nike’s existing ad campaigns.  

The video that is set to the rap by Gener8ion and American rapper Gizzle not only celebrates women in sports but also encourages women to participate in sports. The film ends with the lines: Let's go hard and show the world that; Anything they can do we can do better; JUST DO IT…together. When the TV commercial was released it created a lot of positive buzz on the internet. As of today, the Youtuve video has been viewed 4.6 million times.


Stand-up comedienne Bharati Singh became the face of JOY Cosmetics this year, breaking the notion that only slim and conventionally beautiful women can be brand ambassadors for cosmetic brands.  In the advertisement for JOY Honey and Almond Nourishing body lotion Singh faces the camera to say: It looks like the society’s outlook view about beauty standards is changing, why else would JOY choose me to star in a body lotion ad. It was her first time endorsing a body lotion and a breakthrough ad at that. The 47 second ad was planned and produced internally. It was released on November 4, 2016 and has received more than 2 million views on Youtube.  

Titan Raga

Titan Raga’s ad this year subtly dissected how the society looks at a woman’s success in the workplace. In the ad four senior executives are seen discussing the appraisals of the employees. One of the executives reads a name out from the list and to that another executive present at the table remarks, “Kiran, recommended by Rajat obviously.” The other executives seek an explanation about the remark.

The executive describes Kiran as a hard-working fresher who shares a great working relationship with Rajat and that Kiran and Rajat come in early to work and leave very late, even spending weekends working together. All the colleagues at the table picture a young woman with her boss and reason that the chemistry between the boss and the fresher led to the recommendation.  Curious about Kiran, the executives call for her. When the door opens, to the utter shock of the executives, it is revealed that Kiran is in fact a man.  

The ad tries to impress upon the viewers that biases and preconceived notions against women tend to make people misattribute the success of a woman to the mere fact that she is a woman and not her skills. The ad was conceptualised and created by Ogilvy & Mather India Ltd and was released on the occasion of Women’s Day.


In a world where career options for women are limited, Myntra shared the stories of five women who are leaders in unconventional professions for Women’s Day this year. A Bengaluru cab driver, the Indian Women’s Cricket team’s opening batsman , a wildlife photographer, a stand-up comedienne, and an entrepreneur all shared their mantra to success – yes, you can! – proving that women can do just about anything and be the best at it. The inspiring ad was remembered for the social media campaign it spurred - #trendsettersnotfollowers.


The refreshing and endearing ad by Arrow for Women’s Day was an attempt to break free of the idea that certain professions are only for men and that a limited few are for women. The Be Bold, Be Anything campaign by Arrow showed young children naming their dream professions. While boys said that they could be footballers or join the police force, girls were very aware of their limitations and were put down by the young boys who said that girls can’t do certain jobs.

That is when a woman footballer, woman pilot, policewoman, and woman soldier enter the room and interact with the children. The ad ends with one of the little girls telling a boy in the group, “Look, girls can also be footballers.” The ad was conceptualised by Autumn Worldwide and produced by Undercover Squirrel.


Raymond celebrated Father’s Day this year by celebrating a special kind of fatherhood and saluting single mothers everywhere. As a brand that has for long celebrated spirit of The Complete Man, Raymond broke tradition to recognise the role of the single mother as that of a father. Father’s Day tends to be a time when brands across the board create ads that celebrate the father-child relationship, this year Raymond added a whole new perspective to celebrating fatherhood.

The heart-warming ad shows a son quietly slide a gift to his mother while she is reading the newspaper. She unwraps the gift and a smile grows on her lips. The gift is a mug that reads: World’s best Dad.  The ad that was conceptualised by Famous Innovation was trending on social media for a couple of days.


In keeping with its previous advertisements on the theme of ‘Bold is Beautiful’ Anouk went a step further this year by tackling a delicate issue. The ad titled The Move addressed the challenges that women face with furthering their career after marriage. In the ad, the protagonist and her husband are preparing to move to a different city following the wife’s career aspirations when the husband expresses displeasure at moving for the sake of the wife’s career move. The wife points out that she moved to join the husband soon after the wedding and that he now owes it to her to move with her. The wife decides to move any way, taking a bold decision that is generally frowned upon in society.

The ad impresses upon the viewer that marriage should not be an impediment to a woman’s career aspirations. The film was conceptualised by Hectic Content and released on August 18, 2016. It garnered more than one million views on Youtube.

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