Ads don’t always have to promote a certain product or service. In fact, addressing and bringing awareness to important social causes has become a fascinating area of ad design it its own right.
Cultural and political campaigns draw people’s attention to pressing issues in order to bring about a change in our behaviour. If anything, creating eye-catching artwork is even more vital in this field than regular ad campaigns because the results are often life-changing.
We’ve taken a sample of some of our favourite social ad campaigns that make use of really imaginative methods to communicate their message. From mental health to environmental concerns, there are a lot of issues to cover.
1. Making Sense of Dyslexia
For people with dyslexia, making sense of a word can sometimes be extremely difficult. It can be hard to piece together all the different letters to understand what is being said. In their recent campaign, Sydlexia hoped to build a stronger awareness around dyslexia and to help people understand a little of what it’s like to have the disorder.
They placed ads in newspapers and magazines which people could cut out and create origami shapes from. Once completed, the finished item would spell out a word across all the folds that wasn’t previously legible – kind of like how people with dyslexia need to spend time constructing a word in their own mind!
2. One Click Could Change Your Future
Sometimes ads need to be a little dramatic to really make people think. This one is certainly that!
The message is clear: if you fail to fasten your seatbelt while driving, the results could be catastrophic. If you’re involved in a crash, your seatbelt could be the one thing that keeps your spine, and other parts of your body, intact!
This striking imagery will not be easily forgotten. Hopefully several people will have seen this ad and realised how such a quick action can be so vital.
3. What Goes Around Comes Around
This creative piece won the designers a Gold Pencil for Design at the One Show Design Awards! Designed to wrap around poles and pillars, these posters give out a clever message about the futility of war.
There were four variations on the design in total. Each design features an act of war that, when wrapped around a pole would end up turning on the subject themselves. The message being that when governments go to war, they bring war upon themselves.
4. 70% of Plastic Ends Up in the Sea
These days, it feels like people are well aware of how much damage plastic is doing to our environment. However, being aware is not the same as doing anything about it so these posters are still needed.
Just like the “One Click…” campaign, this ad intends to use the shock factor to draw people in. At first, you glance at this ad and you see a beautiful, ethereal sea plant. Then, you look at the ad properly and you see it isn’t a plant at all, it’s actually made out of single-use plastic spoons!
At the rate we’re currently consuming plastic, this could be all too regular a sighting.
5. Only for Children
Once again, we have a design that is not only creative in its artwork, but also in making use of its format and presentation. Without meticulous planning in regards to the specific location of these ads, this campaign would not have worked.
The ANAR Foundation wanted to give child victims of abuse a safe way to reach out for help that didn’t put them at further risk from their abusers. They created an ad whose true message could only be seen from a certain height so that adults would see one thing, and children would see another.
The message in the images also perfectly sums up the premise of the campaign – “Sometimes child abuse is only visible to the child who is suffering.”
6. Don’t Talk While He Drives
Most adverts that promote safe driving focus on what the driver themselves can do, not what others can do to help. This ad, however, takes a different approach. Instead of telling drivers not to use their phones, this campaign asks everyone else to refuse to talk to people on the phone when you know that they’re driving.
What we find interesting about this advert is not so much the message, though, but the colours used. The designer has been able to create very shocking images through the contrast between the bright red of the blood and the pale, neutral background. Such a stark contrast is sure to grab people’s attention.
7. Moms Demand Action
Now, we couldn’t possibly write a blog about social awareness ads without mentioning this one! This ad has become famous in recent years for pointing how illogical America’s gun laws can be.
It’s a simple point, simply made for great effect. In each variation of the theme, two children compare a gun with something that has been banned under the guise of protecting child safety – a kinder egg, a dodgeball, and the book ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. When positioned directly beside each other, the contrast is made all the more obvious.
Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35 but it is also the most preventable. Smear tests can help identify cancerous cells before they get out of control. Unfortunately, not many women are keen on having a smear test done.
There’s a big push at the moment to get women to make smear test appointments and thus the #SmearForSmear campaign was born! With a short video from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, women were encouraged to post images of themselves with smeared lipstick and get the word out about how important smear tests are.
Campaigns like this, where your audience can get involved, are a brilliant way to spread the word.
9. Tailgating Isn’t Worth It
Here’s another ad that makes full use of the way in which it’s presented to the world. Who could ignore this sign as they drive past on the motorway?
The way this billboard crumples at the point of impact is a brilliant representation of the consequence of dangerous driving. By making it 3D, the designers have made a much more striking sign than just the image of a car crashing into a truck. It also shows how, when it comes to tailgating, it’s often the tailgater who gets the worst deal in a crash.
10. When You Smoke, Your Baby Smokes
Beautiful simplicity can be incredibly effective at times. This poster doesn’t need fancy gimmicks or tricks to communicate its message – the thin tendril of white smoke on a black background is enough.
11. Help Fill Our Stockings
We’re all used to the idea of hanging up our stockings at Christmas time, ready to receive all our treats from Santa. What we might not be so accustomed to is the idea that some people aren’t looking forward to presents, they’re just looking forward to the chance to live.
By using stocking shaped blood bags, this appeal from the NHS combines a serious message with the festive season in a way that’s sure to stick in people’s minds.
Going out for drinks to celebrate an occasion is commonplace. Be it an engagement, a promotion, your favourite football team winning – there’s always something you can celebrate with a drink.
This poster, however, wants to ensure that celebrating with a couple of drinks doesn’t turn the night sour when you attempt to drive home. The two cars in this image crash together like wine glasses coming together in toast although the result of this toast is not so exciting – a stern reminder not to drink and drive.
13. Save Paper, Save the Planet
Here’s one very creative example of how a social awareness ad doesn’t even need to be poster based. Saatchi and Saatchi have managed to bring attention to a pressing issue in something as mundane as a paper towel dispenser.
The green paper towels that are visible through the cut out represent the greenery of South America’s Rainforests but as more towels are used, the greenery is drained from the continent. A powerful visual metaphor for the damage that disposable paper towels contribute to.
14. Mental Health Isn’t Always Easy to See
Finally, we’d like to end with a campaign that addresses an issue that affects so many of us but fails to receive the attention it deserves – mental health.
People often make comparisons between how mental and physical issues are dealt with. They claim that if mental illnesses presented themselves as visibly as physical ones, we might actually address the issues better. This poster campaign tries to sum up that exact perception by imagining how our mental health might manifest itself.
We certainly hope you’re feeling inspired right now for your next social awareness project. Think outside the 2D plane, or create powerful visual metaphors! Let simplicity do the talking for you or invite other people to do the talking for you! There are so many possibilities.
If you enjoyed this, check out these 10 Awesome Ad Designs for more inspiration.