High lachrymosity alert! Few of these ads and videos will leave you with dry eyes, but all of them will send you into the new year feeling inspired. Often coming from surprising sources, these videos touched hearts and souls this year.
2019 was a big year for me as I left my job to set up hope-based communications. These campaigns encouraged me to believe that change requires making people believe change is possible. These videos also show that stories do not necessarily need to be happy to be hopeful, but they do need to be unapologetically sincere and emotional to resonate in this age of fear, anger and social media overload.
Above all, what these ads all have in common is the thing most missing in today’s politics: simple, everyday humanity.
Dublin Bus (1): The Long Road to Pride
“They are the ones who fought for our right to be who we are.”
I am just about ready to forgive Dublin Bus for their unforgiveable policy of not giving change on buses in the 1990s.
After their story of Proud Dads taking their LGBTQI kids to pride last year, this ad tells the struggle of older people who suffered in the closet through years of stigma.
This ad starts heartbreakingly sad which makes the outcome at the end so tear-jerkingly beautiful, from the cruelty of intolerance to the beautiful humanity of acceptance.
Indeed, this ad on its own tells the story of the wonderful transformation Ireland has undergone from Europe’s most socially conservative countries when I was born there in the 1980s to one of its most socially inclusive.
Not to be missed is the key turning point of the story, the solidarity of young activsts with the old, the intergenerational solidarity.
“You shouldnt look at life as a journey, you should look on it as a dance.”
Dublin Bus (2): Freedom of the City
“As much as I’ve always been aware of people’s disability, I’ve never once noticed it. It’s always been the person that I’ve worked with.”
Dublin Bus plucked the heartstrings not once, but twice thanks to this brand new ad celebrating one of their staff who helps people with disabilities use the bus. But really it is an ad celebrating people who care in a truly empathic way, in a way that allows people with disabilities to live lives of freedom.
Cory Booker: We Will Rise
“In America we have a common pain, but what we are lacking is a sense of common purpose.”
Cory Booker is hanging in there in the Democratic Primary but I hope his message of radical love does not get overlooked if he ends up dropping out. He launched his campaign with this uplifting, upbeat and optimistic ad. I love how he uses the marching band to match his determined tone. He is not afraid of big ideas and bold optimism.
TV2: all that we share — connected
“It’s easy to mind your own business. It takes a little more effort the mind the community.”
TV2 had one viral hit with their All That We Share ad in 2017, applying an exercise about group identities drawn from psychology and neuroscience.
They released a sequel in 2019 playing with the six degrees of separation ideas, in which they thread the lives of a group of people together, one by one until the final stories reveal a poignant message about refugees.
This video provides a blueprint for making the case for migration: not as a divisive issue but as part of a wider vision for a society where we accept that we are all connected, and therefore all need to care for each other.
The Intercept — A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
“We stopped being so scared of the future. We stopped being scared of each other. And we found our shared purpose….The first big step was just closing our eyes, and imagining it.”
What does change look like? AOC shows how we can pass a Green New Deal, and what it would look like if we did. Putting forward big bold ideas changes narratives. 2019 started with people criticising the ambitious policy, but it has ended with the European Commission making it a major policy priority.
The challenge climate communications needs to tackle is not complacency, it is despondency. People need to see change is possible. In This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein writes about how promises of a bright green future, and practical steps to actually start creating viable renewable energy sources in northern Europe, offered a way forward:
“What this part of the world has clearly shown is that there is no more potent weapon in the battle against fossil fuels than the creation of real alternatives.”
Honourable mention goes to the European Greens who embraced hopeful messaging to make the case for a greener, more caring Europe for their European Election campaign (none more so than MEP Magic Magid’s ever-inspiring campaigning).
Renault: 30 Years in the making
I enjoy showing this ad to a group of activists without telling them that it is a car ad. While one might be tempted to feel cynical about companies embracing ‘purpose’, right now we need all the allies to promote tolerance and empathy we can get.
Hopeful videos do not need to be happy: sentimental, poignant tones with a heartfelt resolution can be emotionally restorative. After all, what else is joy if not a positive resolution that follows sadness, like sunshine after rain?
Nike: Birthplace of Dreams
“I want them to believe in themselves, but the most important is that they love one another. We want to build a human before we can build an athlete, before we can build a leader.”
After their Emmy-winning Dream Crazy ad with Colin Kaepernick, Nike doubled down on its policy of celebrating diversity and inclusion, most recently and notably with this ad with Caster Semenya.
While in Germany, they tell the story of German boxer Zeina Nassar who fought to be allowed to compete while wearing a hijab.
These ads are a lesson in breaking down barriers.
Don’t just criticize stereotypes, blow them away with completely different ways of seeing people.
Care International ran a campaign fully imbued with that spirit for Women’s Day this year.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS — positive and hope-based campaigning in 2019:
Gillette — The Best a Man Can Be
Gillette started the year with an ad offering an alternative vision of manhood post-metoo, a repudiation of toxic masculinity. They were attacked on the right and scorned for hypocrisy and insincerity — unjustly in my opinion — on the left.
But they followed up with another story which goes a long way to prove their sincerity, in which transgender man Samson Bonkeabantu Brown tells the story of his first shave, but also a story of parental accceptance of their son’s difference.
The tone of Gillette’s ads stayed true to that “Best a Man Can Be” message throughout the year, ending with this story of a man caring for an aging father in a way that made me think of Odysseus and Laertes.
The Guardian — Hope is Power
Kudos to The Guardian for embracing hopeful messaging this year.
While not quite reflected in the tone of their (laudable) focus on “climate crisis”, the paper explained that they wanted to inspire their readers to action:
“The campaign highlights the Guardian’s purpose to not only hold power to account, but to explore new ways of doing things, bringing new ideas to the table and giving people the facts to challenge the status quo.”
If you want to tell stories like this, take the hope-based pledge and spread the word!
- What you are against to what you stand for
- From fear to hope
- From problem to solution
- From threat to opportunity
- From victims to heroes
Hope, not fear: A new model for communicating human rights
Since publishing this story in 2017, the idea of hope-based communications has grown. In 2019, I set up hope-based…
About me: I set up hope-based communications to be a global community of people who want to do social change communications differently, using positive values-based messages that make the case for the world we want to see. Find out more about hope-based communications at www.hope-based.com.