It is not uncommon for celebrities or corporations to use their power and podium to make a statement. We’ve seen this time and time again. Whether it’s to showcase humanitarian efforts as Angelina Jolie does or to encourage self-confidence like Dove’s Real Beauty, celebrities and companies often attach their name to a political or social movement, hoping that their status will carry extra weight.
In the last month, we’ve seen examples of this on full display on two of the biggest stages imaginable: the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards.
This year, a 30-second Super Bowl commercial cost advertisers, on average, $4.5 million. Several big name advertisers took a different route than usual, trading in the celebrity spokesperson for a cultural or social message.
Always: This ad posed a very interesting question. Why is it an insult to run/throw/fight “like a girl”? It showed the disparity between how young girls, young women, and boys react to the phrase “like a girl,” highlighting how much confidence is lost during adolescence. It was exciting to see a Girl Power moment in the middle of ads otherwise focused on beer, trucks, and football.
NFL: Following the controversy surrounding NFL players Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, the NFL has made a concerted effort to raise awareness about domestic violence. They highlighted this important issue in a chilling minute-long PSA. The combination of the message, the delivery, and the setting made for an impactful and compelling spot.
Winners at the Academy Awards get a whopping 45 seconds to thank their friends, family, and colleagues before the dreaded music begins and they are played off the stage. During this weekend’s awards show, many stars used that precious time to shine a light on a political or social issue.
Patricia Arquette: Best Supporting Actress winner Patricia Arquette gave a pointed acceptance speech, focusing heavily on the need for gender and pay equality in America. The “Boyhood” actress played a single mother who struggled to raise two children and seemed to represent her character and women like her during the speech.
John Legend and Common: The Academy Award for Best Original Song went to Common and John Legend for their work on “Glory” from the film “Selma.” Their acceptance speech mirrored the message of the film and song, calling for racial equality and freedom. They connected the message of the song with current events, saying it “connects a kid from the South Side of Chicago, dreaming of a better life, to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression, to the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy.”
These are just a few. There were other commercials and other speeches focused on issues of political and social importance. So what now? These companies and celebrities have a daunting task ahead of them: to take their messages from the screen or from the stage and make a tangible difference. How well they do that is the true test of their commitment to the cause.