We asked industry experts what their favourite ad that breaks gender norms/stereotypes was.
Here’s what they had to say.
Play Until They Can’t Look Away – Adidas
Anne Caroline Ribeiro, Operations Director, VMLY&R
In times of FIFA Women’s World Cup, Adidas defied conventions and pushed for gender equality in football, with its film titled ‘Play Until They Can’t Look Away’. The campaign unites iconic figures like Jenna Ortega, David Beckham and Lionel Messi with the rising talents Alessia Russo, Lena Oberdorf and Mary Fowler emphasizing the need to spotlight women’s football on a global scale. It’s a resounding call to break barriers and level the playing field, rewriting the script, demanding recognition, and respect for female athletes. This is a hard-hitting message that refuses to be silenced, with a powerful call to change the game and empower future generations.
A Doll Can Help Change the World – Mattel
Ayush Tandon, Art Director, Avant Garde
The campaign is a game-changer. It shows girls dreaming big – envisioning themselves as scientists, teachers, and more. It’s like a breath of fresh air, pushing aside that old idea that dolls are just for certain roles. And guess what? Boys are in on it too, showing how caring knows no bounds. With all the buzz about Barbie these days, thanks to the movie release, this ad feels even more powerful. It’s not just play anymore. It’s a celebration of diverse dreams and possibilities, encouraging a new generation to dream big and reach beyond expectations.
No Room For Clichés – Royal Air Force
George Sharrock, Senior Creative, JWI
You know the stereotypical cliches women are bombarded with in advertising? Come on, we’re all guilty of using them. The RAF decided to have some fun and throw those cliches into unexpected situations, giving them a hilarious twist. The ad didn’t just make us laugh, it also shone light on the ridiculousness of valuing women based on their looks, lifestyle choices or the products they buy. They struck the perfect balance between humour and a powerful message. Kudos to them for pushing for equal opportunities for women in the armed forces while taking a swipe at stale stereotypes.
Dream Crazier – Nike
Gonca Gorgulu, Senior Account Manager, Serviceplan Middle East
As a female working in a male-dominated industry, this ad really struck a chord with me the first time I saw it. In our daily lives, most women, myself included, have experienced some form of labelling, from being called ‘dramatic’ for showing emotions after a tough pitch or ‘aggressive’ for standing our ground for ideas we believe in. And this is what this ad does so well – it sparks an emotion. Iconic footage of legendary female athletes, paired with a powerful script narrated by Serena Williams, makes for an excellent 90s film that continues to inspire women and advertisers alike.
The Compil des Bleues – Orange
Lizzie Howitt, Business Director, Lightblue
I have a love-hate relationship with this now viral ad created in the lead-up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The ad begins with what appears to be a montage of the French men’s football team, followed by a text overlay; ‘Only les Bleus can give us these emotions. But that’s not them you’ve just seen’. We then discover that the players are those of the women’s team and the footage had been edited with visual effects. Admittedly, I got goosebumps the first time I watched it, a real ‘aha’ moment in the face of all those who claim woman’s football isn’t exciting. I understand the controversy with some people stating that the women in the ad were overshadowed, and it does irk me that to promote the woman’s team, we need to disguise them as men. However, we know that woman’s football is incredibly underestimated and even mocked, and more needs to be done to overcome this. Ultimately, it’s an excellent execution of real insight and certainly serves to question your own unconscious bias. It got a lot of eyeballs, coverage and sparked conversation. Whether it perpetuates the same attitudes it aims to subvert, I’ll let you decide.
Margaret Flanagan, Co-Founder, Tales and Heads
Produced for the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup by French agency Marcel, this piece of content from telecoms company Orange plays on and subverts the stereotype that women’s sport is less exciting and less skilful than its male equivalent. It’s clever and compelling and shows in no uncertain terms that women playing at an international level are more than capable of doing justice to the sport’s reputation as ‘the beautiful game.’ It succeeds because it’s timely, truthful and makes us question our own prejudices.
Paras Ali, Account Director, Cheil MENA
The ad ingeniously employs special effects to shatter stereotypes purposefully. You see the French team score goals after goals showcasing the players’ remarkable skills. Then, it is revealed that the film utilises VFX to superimpose faces of male players on to female players. Marcel’s approach marks a pivotal moment in breaking down biases through technological storytelling, with its simple yet effective execution the ad enjoyed widespread attention as it refutes the assumption that low demand for women’s professional football is based on the quality of the female player’s performances.
Like a Girl – Always
Mai Cheblak, Head of Corporate Marketing, Events and Sponsorships at Emirates NBD
As a part of their #LikeAGirl campaign, Always released a powerful and uplifting short video, breaking the stereotype that the way women do things is inferior to the way men do them. Always has changed the world’s perspective on the expression ‘like a girl’, turning it into a positive attribute that girls should be proud of and embrace, rather than the negative implication it has carried for years.
What I love the most about the video is its ability to create transformational and impactful change so we can now identify female traits as being strong, aspirational and desirable. Thought-provoking campaigns like these go a long way in driving awareness and breaking common stereotypes, and we definitely need more of them.
Vriddhi Kumthekar, Account Executive, Shakespeare Communications
The campaign was a powerful movement challenging the negative associations tied to the phrase ‘like a girl’, instead redefining it as a symbol of strength. When young girls were asked to perform actions ‘like a girl’, they showcased confidence and skill, contrasting with older participants who exhibited negative stereotypes. The campaign urged viewers to ponder over gender norms and create an empowering environment. It encouraged girls like us to embrace their abilities and reject harmful stereotypes, fostering confidence and success, while posing a thought-provoking question: Do we limit girls and impose predefined roles upon them?
Ford Explorer Men’s Only Edition – Ford
Manoshi Banerjee, PR Manager, Entourage
The Ford Explorer Men’s Only Edition is one of the smartest ads challenging gender stereotypes and celebrating the contribution of women in the automotive industry. Using creativity, humour, and the simplest form of storytelling, the commercial announces an imaginary men’s only edition of their popular SUV, lacking all of the parts created by women, even though critical to a vehicle’s safety and optimal performance (wipers, turn signals, GPS etc.). It is spot on in not only pointing out the gender stereotype in the automotive industry but also demolishing the idea of gender dominance with a sarcastic undertone. The ad was released during Women’s History Month, in 2023.
This Girl Can – Sport England
Maria Talakin, Research Director – MENA, WhyFive
My favourite ad that challenges gender stereotypes is This Girl Can, the very first ad launched back in 2015 by Sport England that dared to change the way women see their involvement in sports. Eight years forward, I still enjoy watching it and I believe it is still one of the most powerful campaigns that broke stereotypes and made a positive impact. Around that time, I was heavily involved in the development of women’s sports and women’s football. What is now a norm was a big challenge for women and girls to overcome socially, mentally, and financially. This ad became a marker of change for me and anyone in the industry. And it still is that marker that pushes women’s sport forward.
Fearless Girl – State Street
Maya El Kai, Associate Creative Director, Saatchi & Saatchi
Who doesn’t remember the popular ‘Fearless Girl’ statue in front of the ‘Charging Bull’? What I like about this idea is that it went beyond being a viral marketing campaign to become a cultural icon and universal symbol of female empowerment. Was it art? Was it another disruptive PR idea? Placing this bold young girl in New York City’s business district turned the street into a stage for gender equality in leadership roles, and pressured State Street to pay $5m to settle claims that it discriminated against female employees through unfair pay practices.
What Are Girls Made Of – Nike
Artem Minasian, Managing Director & Co-Founder, Eventum Premo Dubai
Today’s society does not stand still and does not live in the vestiges of the past, stereotypes are breaking under the pressure of new rules that the modern world dictates. Let me give you an example of a commercial that first says that girls are made of ‘flowers and jellybeans’ – a typical set of stereotypes, isn’t it? But then these stereotypes are shattered when we are shown female athletes and told that girls are also made of ‘iron, clenched fists, strength and fire’. Women are not only about softness and gentleness, they are also about perseverance, drive and confidence.
The Unseen Side of Celebrations – Ariel
Soumyajit Mukherjee, Head of Account Management, Adscholars
Brought to life by Kinnect, this ad takes a powerful stand against gender norms. It fearlessly challenges established traditions, especially during festive moments. Beyond its storyline, the ad uncovers hidden imbalances that can dampen celebrations. By highlighting unequal household responsibilities, it doesn’t just question stereotypes but also paves a path for change. It urges equality promotion and escaping fixed roles, nurturing an atmosphere where both partners contribute freely, even beyond festivals.
Kababae Mong Tao – Coca-Cola Philippines
Tessa Antonio, Social Strategist, AKQA MENA
Launched during Women’s Day 2021, Coca-Cola Philippines’ #KababaeMongTao campaign strikes a chord. Flipping a derogatory label used for women who defy norms, they create a powerful message of empowerment and brilliantly channel it into unapologetic strength. In a society where strong-willed women can face pressure to conform, the campaign courageously challenges the status quo. It’s remarkable how the ad takes an unexpected aspirational approach, setting it apart from the typically sentimental style of Filipino ads. Coca-Cola sparks a vital conversation and sets a new standard for impactful advertising.