Paralympian Stefanie Reid modelled for Debenhams’ spring/summer collection.
Since the Paralympic Games took place last year, disability became a more visible subject in some brand’s communication from UK. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), more than half of the UK population said that they have improved their perception of disability, as a result of the event. Sainsbury’s, which sponsored the event, and Channel 4 which was the official UK broadcaster of the event, extended their parasport commitments to this summer’s Anniversary Games. In the past year since the Paralympics, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer decided to include disabled actors and models in their marketing communication.
These changes can prove that disability should not be treated as a delicate subject in advertising, but use it in the right way. Some brands simply ignore this consumer category, others are afraid that if they use a disable person in their communication they can be accused that are just aiming to improve their image. But these brands maybe just forget that disable persons are not much different that “normal” ones.
Nike is already celeb for its long-time support of disabled athletes, but not every time the brand was positively acclaimed for its messages. In 2000 Nike launched an ad for Air Dri-Goat running shoes in which people with spinal cord injuries were called “misshapen” and “confined to a wheelchair”. Nike’s ad had received immediate globally condemn, which made the brand to do a humble public apologize that ironically irritated people even more. Nike continued to speak about disable people like persons very different than the rest of people “who demonstrate more courage in a single day than most of us will in our lifetime “. Nike’s ad made history as the worst brand communication regarding disability.
On the other side, Pepsi was more realistic when made a hilarious commercial relying on a popular joke in the deaf community. Pepsi had enough trust in their communication since they risked launch it during the Super Bowl in 2008.
In the same year Liberty Mutual, an insurance company, made great waves with its commercial entitled Election. The company used the same realistic approach to tell the story of a disable woman that went to vote despite many obstacles.
Red Bull’s commercial with Ashley Fiolek, the youngest Women’s Motocross Association Champion ever, made great positive buzz in 2011. Watch the commercial to understand:
Gilette decided to say the things on their name in their campaign from last year named Cure Pity . Gilette tells people that disable persons don’t need pity because they are not weak, but don’t have equal chances. And if you watch this ad with Lexi Dietz, an 8 year old girl suffering from arthrogryposis, you will understand why there is a need for a chance.
Probably all brands will learn in time that disability is a subject as “normal” as others and disable people shouldn’t be ignored because they might be an important part of their consumers.
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