7 TV Commercials That Were More Activism Than Advertising (VIDEO)


Who knew that a safety razor commercial could become a flashpoint in national politics?

As you’ll see below, though, Gillette isn’t the only brand to strike an activist angle, nor is it the only one to spark controversy.

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Gillette, “We Believe: The Best a Man Can Be”

This shaving brand waded into gender politics this month with this commercial asking if violence, sexual harassment, and toxic masculinity are really “the best a man can get,” riffing on its longtime slogan. Immediately, Gillette was accused of being “anti-man.” Writer Andrew P. Street argued, “If your masculinity is THAT threatened by an ad that says we should be nicer then you’re doing masculinity wrong.”

Nike, “Believe in Something”

A similar boycott was launched in September 2018 after Nike debuted a print ad featuring former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was allegedly blacklisted from of the NFL because of his kneeling protests against police brutality.

Patagonia, “Why Patagonia Is Fighting for Public Lands”

This clothing company made its first TV ad in August 2017 in response to President Trump’s request to review more than two dozen national monuments. Patagonia later sued the president for his proclamations reducing the size of both the Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase monuments in Utah.

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Airbnb, “We Accept”

In February 2017, and nine days after President Trump introduced a travel ban for citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries, Airbnb released this affirming ad, declaring, “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.”

Budweiser, “Born the Hard Way”

Another pro-immigration commercial aired during that year’s Super Bowl: this spot showing Anheuser-Busch co-founder Adolphus Busch traveling from Germany to America and enduring xenophobic taunts like “You’re not wanted here!” and “Go back home!” And yes, there was a call to boycott Budweiser, too.

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Coca-Cola, “It’s Beautiful”

At the same time, Coca-Cola re-aired this 2014 commercial, a montage of America’s diversity soundtracked by voices singing “America the Beautiful” in various languages.

Pepsi, “Live for Now”

The soda company was widely criticized for this April 2017 ad, which seemed to imply that the police brutality issue could be solved over ice-cold cans of Pepsi — and with the help of Kendall Jenner. “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding,” the company said, after pulling a spot a day later. “Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize.”