Faking ‘wokeness’: how advertising targets millennial liberals for profit

Banking on a coveted demographic that is increasingly in the bluest cities, brands are ‘trying to make their toilet paper save the world’

Outclassed: The Secret Life of Inequality is our new column about class. Read all articles here

“Eco-warriors” are celebrated in one video. In another, a message flashes across the screen: “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong.” Yet another ad champions the theme of girls and Stem (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and celebrates a girl-centered technology organization.

Despite all appearances, these videos are not public-service campaigns. Instead, they are advertisements for some of the most blockbuster brands around: for the car company Kia, for Airbnb, and for the phone carrier Verizon, whose ad campaign involves partnering with Girls who Code. These companies are now gesturing at liberal values through their messaging. If television is waking up politically, with shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, advertisements seem to be far ahead.

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