The Most Thought-Provoking Ads of 2017
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Some of the best ads are those that make you look twice and think about the world at large.
From Nike’s commercial featuring female Arab athletes to Audi’s “Daughter” commercial about equal pay -- there have been many thought-provoking ads so far this year. Politics, immigration and gender issues are just some of the topics these brands address.
Related: The Best Super Bowl 51 Ads
Here are our picks for the most thought-provoking ads of 2017.
1. Ancestry’s “Declaration Descendants”
For the 4th of July, Ancestry.com released a thought-provoking ad about equality and the idea that we are all more alike than we think.
In the ad, different people of various ethnicities recite parts of the Declaration of Independence. At the end of the spot it's revealed who these people are -- each are descendents of someone who signed the declaration.
Ancestry.com CMO Vineet Mehr said in an interview: “We're all much more similar than you think. And we're using facts and data to prove it. This is not fluffy marketing. These are facts."
2. Apple’s “Earth -- Shot on iPhone”
Climate change is a hot topic right now and companies are making great efforts to raise awareness over the issue.
In June, Apple released a new ad called “Earth -- Shot on iPhone,” which highlights the beauty and importance of nature and the planet. The video shows scenic images of the earth’s landscape and features the late Carl Sagan reading passages from his 1994 book Pale Blue Dot -- A Vision of the Human Future in Space.
"Like it or not, for the moment, the earth is where we make our stand. It underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the only home we've ever known,” Sagan says during the ad.
3. Microsoft’s “#MakeWhatsNext: Change the Odds”
As part of Microsoft’s third annual #MakeWhatsNext campaign, the company released an ad, “Change the Odds,” urging young girls to change the world and stay in STEM.
From curing breast cancer to creating a sustainable environment, a group of young girls share how they want to change the world. Microsoft encourages the excited pre-teens, giving them tools and VR experiences to help promote their visions. Then, reality strikes and Microsoft breaks the sad news to them: “Odds are you won’t solve these problems.” Only 6.7 percent of women in the U.S. graduate with a STEM degree.
The campaign seeks to challenge women to push gender norms in a male-dominant industry and “change the odds.”
4. Nike’s ad with female Arab athletes
Traditional gender roles continue to play a major role in Arab countries. With this ad, Nike looks to shake things up. In the commercial, the sportswear company celebrates five successful, female professional athletes from Arab countries.
It’s not only a feat for Arab women to be successful as athletes, but in many instances, they are defying their countries' gender norms. In one clip, you see Zahra Lari, the first Emirati figure skater, who told CNN, "People thought it's dancing. In front of men, that's not acceptable."
Other athletes featured in the commercial include Tunisian fencer and Olympics medalist Ines Boubakri, Emirati Parkour trainer Amal Mourad, Saudi singer Balqees Fathi and Jordanian boxer Arifa Bseiso.
5. Audi's “Daughter”
From the looks of it, Audi’s commercial “Daughter” looks like a cute underdog story about a young girl winning a soap box car race. But it’s much more than that.
The commercial is actually about equal pay. While a father watches his daughter compete against others in a race -- nervous she might lose -- he anguishes over the idea of having to tell his daughter that we live in a world that values men over women.
6. 84 Lumber's “The Journey”
In 84 Lumber’s “The Journey,” a mother and daughter say goodbye to their family in Mexico and make their way to the U.S. As they trek towards the Mexico-U.S. border, a group of construction workers are building a wall.
As they reach the border, the mother and daughter see the newly constructed wall and their dreams of freedom are shattered. That is, until they notice a large wooden door in the middle of the wall -- their gateway to freedom. They push open the door, enter the U.S. and continue on their path to a better life.
The ad ends with the line, “The will to succeed is always welcome here.”
7. Cadillac’s “Carry”
Cadillac is hopping on the bandwagon of companies with politically-driven ads this year. During the Oscars, Cadillac ran its “Carry” commercial -- part of its Dare Greatly” campaign -- recalling the United States’ political and social history in a one-minute clip.
The commercial begins with a scene of a 1960s civil rights protest followed by clips of fallen soldiers, natural disasters, political discourse and more.
“No matter who we are, what we believe or where we come from, we’ve had the privilege to carry a century of humanity,” the narrator says in the ad.
From lovers to fighters, the commercial shows images of famous influential people such as Marilyn Monroe and Martin Luther King, Jr., and ends with a message -- “What we carry isn’t just people, it’s an idea. That while we’re not the same, we can be one. And all it takes is the willingness to dare.”
8. GE’s “What If Millie Dresselhaus, Female Scientist, Was Treated Like a Celebrity”
Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, Lady Gaga -- we constantly see actors, musicians and other celebrities on the cover of tabloids and in the center of the limelight. But what about scientists, inventors and doctors?
In GE’s commercial, “What If Millie Dresselhaus, Female Scientist, Was Treated Like a Celebrity,” which ran during the 2017 Oscars, the company celebrates Dresselhaus, one of the world’s most accomplished female scientists, who died on Feb. 20, 2017.
The ad imagines a world where Dresselhaus, also known as the “Queen of Carbon,” is treated like a celebrity -- dolls being made in her image, her own emoji and newborns named “Millie.” The ad pays tribute to the late Dresselhaus, while also promoting women in technology.
The company has a goal of placing 20,000 women in tech roles by 2020.
9. The New York Times’ “The Truth is Hard”
The New York Times wants viewers to know it seeks to find the truth. With its first ad in seven years, the NYT released “The Truth Is Hard” commercial during the Oscars.
The 30-second black-and-white clip defends the honesty of its journalism, touching upon fake news and referencing the words of President Donald Trump, who calls the publication “failing.” The commercial flashes through a series of statements that start with “The truth is …” including one that’s a direct reference to President Trump himself -- “The truth is the media is dishonest.”
The ad ends with “The truth is hard to find, the truth is hard to know, the truth is more important now than ever.”
10. Audible’s #AudibleVoices
Amazon’s Audible made its way into the spotlight during the Oscars with its socially-driven commercials featuring actors such as Claire Danes and Zachary Quinto.
In one ad, Danes reads a passage from the 19th century novel Les Miserables, which is based during the French Revolution and carries numerous social themes and political conflicts. In its second aired commercial, Star Trek’s Quinto reads an excerpt from dystopian novel 1984 by George Orwell.
Its politically-inspired commercials had a clear message for viewers, but unlike most commercials we’ve seen today, they avoided dropping any names or referring to any specific current events.