From Sweets to Sanitary Towels – Brands that Break Barriers

yours truly campaign header image
Advertising seeps into every corner of our lives. Adverts on TV, adverts on social media, adverts on bus stops – they’re everywhere. Adverts are great for promoting a brand and its products but they’re also great for breaking down barriers and deeper issues.

Advertising seeps into every corner of our lives. Adverts on TV, adverts on social media, adverts on bus stops – they’re everywhere. They’re great for advertising a company’s product or service, but because of the astronomical reach adverts have, they’re also great for breaking down barriers and deeper issues.

Look on the light side

Take Maltesers. They have a big commitment to diversity as part of their marketing strategy and last September they released the ‘New Boyfriend’ ad during Channel 4’s Paralympic Games coverage.

This ad was part of a contest run by Channel 4 who was looking to see more people with disabilities being shown in adverts. Because, quite shockingly, disability still seems to be a bit of a taboo. The Advertising Standards Agency received 151 complaints about the advert, most of which stated it was overly sexual and insulting to disabled people. I have to disagree. The advert describes an awkward situation that the woman experienced. It didn’t insult her disability. It would have been quite a funny situation without the disability. The advert simply enforces the message that a disability doesn’t mean you don’t have a normal life, along with the normal situations that come with that. Does it hint at a sexual subtext? Yes, but one that any kid under the age of 13 or 14 would get? No. No wonder Maltesers experienced an 8.1% uplift during the campaign.


 The beauty industry is quite famous for not being the most diverse. L’Oreal Paris launched their ‘Yours Truly’ campaign in August 2016, highlighting that whatever your skin tone there was a perfect foundation shade for you. Anyone who’s bought foundation will know that trying to get something that doesn’t make you look like a ghost or a tangerine is pretty difficult. L’Oreal’s first influencer-led campaign features a range of celebrities of all nationalities and skin tones, and outlines some of the struggles they’ve faced as part of the beauty industry.

Now it seems obvious that people of every skin tone might want to wear make-up so there should be a range of products that accommodate all skin tones. However, on a recent wander into the local pharmacy I was quite surprised at how few products were available for darker skin tones. While there’s still a long way to go in this industry, L’Oreal are heading in the right direction and other mainstream brands need to follow suit.


Saving my favourite for last – Bodyform’s recent #bloodnormal campaign is looking to remove the taboos around periods by showing more realistic situations in their adverts, like a man buying sanitary products. The ad also shows the first ever absorption demonstration using red liquid rather than blue to enforce their more realistic message.

Now there are arguments on all sides for this one as you might have guessed. The two biggest ‘against’ comments I’ve seen so far are:

  1. ‘Why is a man buying them? He doesn’t need to know about that.’
  2. ‘Everyone knows what a period is – we don’t need to see it on TV.’

1) I was so shocked by this backwards comment I couldn’t think of a witty response, and 2) One in five women asked in Bodyform’s research said their confidence was damaged because periods weren’t discussed openly with them. So you potentially have 20% of women who have a less than ideal knowledge of their own bodily functions – which is quite scary indeed. Others applauded the brand for being upfront and honest. Well as honest as the ASA will allow you to be whenever you feature anything looking like blood in an advert.

This is my personal favourite – not because the advert really grabbed my attention to begin with but because of the conversations it’s created in the aftermath of the launch. I spent a good while reading through a 9-page message board where everyone commented on it. The advert was even featured on BBC news. And it didn’t feature anyone roller-blading and wearing white jeans! If this advert keeps on creating open and honest conversations then it’s doing a great job.

When advertising is reaching billions of people every day, it’s a great way to start breaking down the barriers of previous years. In our branding workshops we pride ourselves on breaking barriers. To find out more how we could help, get in touch.

The start of something big. Find out more about our brand strategy services.

Share this Post:

You may also like

yours truly campaign header image

elasticity newsletter