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Creative Awards Case Studies

10 taboo-busting marketing campaigns shortlisted at The Drum Awards for Social Purpose

By Olivia Atkins, Branded Content Writer

December 8, 2021 | 8 min read

Ahead of our final awards show of 2021 – The Drum Awards for Social Purpose which is streaming live on later today – we take a look at one of the biggest and most heartening trends to emerge from our awards programme this year: brands busting taboos.

A look into 10 campaigns busting taboos at this year's The Drum for Social Purpose Awards.

A look into 10 campaigns busting taboos at this year's The Drum for Social Purpose Awards.

Rather than shy away from subjects that would previously be off limits in advertising, 2021 was packed with examples of brands leaning in and attempting to address the taboo topics that still pervade society.

From dispelling period shame with the introduction of red blood on-screen to discussing sexual health, diversity and more, ads are being braver in what they confront, crushing outdated stereotypical representations of modern life to showcase a more realistic, inclusive and healthy perspective. And it seems that this trend is having huge impact – from engaging new audiences, reaping profits and effecting change, busting taboos is resonating with consumers and proving worthwhile for marketers alike.

Here we pick out 10 taboo-busting campaigns from this year’s shortlisted work at The Drum Awards for Social Purpose.

10. Hairy Tales by Tangle Teezer


This book series from Don’t Cry Wolf launched during US Black History Month to alleviate race-based hair discrimination. Through reimagining traditional fairy tales to feature Black characters in a number of hair-related situations, the campaign provided useful and educational messages about looking after Black and afro hair. The activism campaign was written by and starred Black talent, and strived to create conversations around underrepresentation in the media.

Entered into the awards’ Campaign of the Year (for profit) category – and a winner of the Consumer Products or Services category at The Drum Awards for PR 2021 held earlier this year – this campaign has proved essential in normalizing how Black and afro hair is viewed in the public domain. Click here to read more about this campaign.

9. Adopt-A-Grandparent for CHD Living

Ageism is an issue rarely talked about but this initiative from Pic PR highlights the loneliness and disassociation that the elderly can feel by finding a way to connect them to new communities. The Adopt a Grandparent scheme – which has been nominated in the Best PR Campaign category – shares the work of the match-making charity to combat loneliness and spread joy. The TV spots showed how connections can be made despite age differences and the invaluable impact they can have. Click here to read more about it.

8. Period for Intimina


Period blood only appeared onscreen for the first time last year. Now paint brand Pantone has picked up the baton by releasing a custom red colour that represents menstruation. The campaign, created by COW, was entered into the Campaign of the Year (for profit) category for its efforts at destigmatizing period colour, normalising bodily functions and making periods a topic that people feel they can openly talk about.

7. Changing Perceptions of Childhood Obesity for Consumer Goods Forum

This video campaign from BBC StoryWorks Commercial Productions was nominated for the Best Video Campaign category, thanks to its work highlighting inequality behind childhood obesity. The film forms part of The Collaboration for Healthier Lives partnership between Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and reveals the intricate social issues related to children being overweight. It provides an emotional glimpse at the parents who are unable to afford healthy food choices for their kids and how there are options available to them. More information on the campaign can be found here.

6. Empowerium for The Girls Network


This tongue-in-cheek campaign from Among Equals ironically mocks efforts to enhance gender equality as a way of highlighting how much still needs to be addressed. The team created a satirical online store promoting non-existent products for the purpose of female empowerment. The collection includes items like a 'have it all' hold-all or a pay gap filler, but when consumers headed to the tills they were redirected to donate to The Girls’ Network charity. This campaign has been entered into the Best Use of Creativity category and has led to the opening of a follow-up pop-up shop, exhibit and event space in London this December.

5. Unmute for Unilever

This integrated campaign from Weber Shandwick saw the creation of Unilever's internal campaign policy targeting domestic violence. The policy outlined what domestic violence looks like and created a guide for victims seeking training or support. The effectiveness of the roll-out even saw two of the company’s own employees use Unilever’s pack to escape abusive situations. Domestic violence is not often talked about due to the shame still associated around it, but this campaign – entered into the Best in Brand Purpose category – aimed to alleviate any judgemental feelings about domestic abuse and instead focus on distrubuting practical advice.

4. Breast Cancer Checks for Tyla and Play-doh

Breasts are still considered a taboo subject online and they're still very much censored on certain social platforms, which is why LADbible Group created an innovative campaign using Play-Doh to encourage women to continue regularly checking their boobs. The video – entered into the Best Brand/Charity Collaboration category – aims to provide clear tips on how to medically assess bodies, without sexualising the female body – so that the campaign remains informative and useful.

3. What’s Up with Everyone?

This series of sweet animations from Aardman encourages people to consider their mental wellbeing and question comparison culture. The campaign has been nominated for the Best Social Media Campaign category thanks to its efforts to destigmatise low self-esteem, self-doubt and feelings of overwhelmment through offering an online platform and connecting service to support. The campaign was rolled out on social media and its simplistic animations make the message clear to understand.

2. Think Outside The Box for Tyla and Tampax


Tampon brand Tampax created a fun campaign to dispel myths and fears around tampon insertion in this campaign, that’s been nominated for Best Social Media Campaign. With an accompanying comic strip and short film rolled out on Tyla, the ad provided useful information presented in a fun and engaging way, partnered with colourful illustrations. Read more about the campaign here.

1. Solace Women’s Aid #MakeItStop

This jarring video campaign highlights the trauma that women and children living through sexual domestic abuse and sexual violence experience. This campaign from MBA stack has been entered into two categories, the newly created Best use of Creativity category and Best Video Campaign. Its clear message urges people to report domestic violence before it’s too late and offers resources for those who may be unsure whether they should intervene or not. It’s a powerful campaign normalising how often domestic abuse actually occurs.

Click here for a full list of nominations ahead of The Drum Awards for Social Puprose. You can watch the event live on from 4pm GMT on Wednesday 8 December.

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