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Ads Take On President Donald Trump’s Proposed European Travel Ban

“It’s easy to put people in boxes,” an ad for TV2 Denmark begins. “There’s us and there’s them.”

People stand in groups in an empty warehouse, separated by socioeconomic factors: income, ethnic background, religion. 

There are the “high-earners” and “those just getting by,” the “new Danes” and “those who’ve always been here,” and the “people from the countryside” and “those who’ve never seen a cow.”

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“There are those we share something with, and those we don’t share anything with,” the narrator continues. 

But as these seemingly disparate groups are asked a range of personal questions by a moderator, they find out they have more in common than they had previously thought.

When asked who in the room was a class clown, people from each of the groups step into the middle of the room. Same goes for the questions “who loves to dance?” and “who has been bullied?” 

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“So, maybe,” the ad concludes, “there’s more that brings us together than we think.”

This ad is one of several powerful campaigns released by different companies across multiple channels in the weeks since US President Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban has come into effect. 

Coca-Cola aired its “Together Is Beautiful” ad during the Super Bowl, featuring Americans of all stars and stripes singing the “America the Beautiful” in different languages. The company ran the ad despite a backlash to a multilingual commercial the company aired in 2014 that prompted some people on Twitter to use the hashtag #SpeakAmerican

Airbnb, which is founded on the premise of sharing one’s home with strangers, produced a short but powerful ad for their #WeAccept campaign. 

“We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong,” the ad stated. “The world is more beautiful the more you accept.”

On Sunday, more than 100 US companies filed a legal brief against Trump, arguing that the travel ban “represents a significant departure from the principles of fairness and predictability that have governed the immigration system of the United States for the past 50 years.”

Of course, there’s a difference between corporate social responsibility and government policy. 

Both the United States and Denmark are notoriously stringent in their acceptance of immigrants and refugees. Refugees who hope to resettle to the United States must go through a grueling 20-step procedure that includes multiple background checks, screenings, and interviews.

Last January, Denmark passed a controversial immigration law that made it significantly harder to enter the country legally. The law cut social benefits to refugees and immigrants, tripled the wait for applying to have family members join, and imposed a mandate allowing Danish authorities to “seize any assets exceeding $1,450” to help pay for resettlement.  

Though private companies — like beverage producers and home-share platforms — and even publicly owned television stations are free to advertise togetherness and unity, government policies can make this unity elusive. 

What’s most important, however, about ads like this is that they change the narrative surrounding nationalism. Where “nationalism” on the one hand represents an America-first (or Denmark-first) mentality, nationalism can also mean finding togetherness in difference and celebrating a country for the people it lets in rather than those it keeps out. 

Even if these ads don’t change policy, they can play an outsized role in shaping the debate around national identity. And this shift, in itself, is beautiful.