Ad Council

What label are you advertising?

In the logo saturated world of advertising, labels are everywhere, but in 2015 the Ad Council and R/GA teamed up to share stories that have no labels. This video shows a live crowd’s reactions to a giant, ersatz X-ray installation where two people are initially seen behind the X-ray and as they emerge…the unexpected happens.

An Adweek article summed up that the idea behind the campaign was to make individuals—even the most progressive and accepting of us—realize that we harbor our own implicit judgments. “This campaign really got people to start thinking about how they react to their own unconscious biases,” explains Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of The Ad Council. “Ultimately, the goal was to get people to start acting differently as a result of that.”

According to the Ad Council, while the vast majority of Americans consider themselves unprejudiced, many of us unintentionally make snap judgments about people based on what we see—whether it’s race, age, gender, religion, sexuality, or disability. The Love Has No Labels campaign challenges us to open our eyes to our bias and prejudice and work to stop it in ourselves, our friends, our families, and our colleagues. Rethink your bias at http://www.lovehasnolabels.com

Share your #LoveHasNoLabels story by taking three easy steps:

  1. TAKE a video, or a photo using our Faces of Love tool on http://www.LoveHasNoLabels.com.
  2. TELL us what Love Has No Labels means to you.
  3. SHARE your story and use #LoveHasNoLabels to submit it to our gallery.

Many of you may have seen this campaign previously, but with Valentine’s Day approaching, go ahead and take another look at the video and the wonderfully robust microsite with interactive features, socially sharable and customizable content.

If you’re a brand manager, creative director or someone else in the ad industry trying to build emotional connections with the hope of customers loving your brand, ask yourself how your brand can include love without labels.

Love is blind is a phrase that Shakespeare used in several of his plays and hopefully you can see the positive in being blindly in love too. Love doesn’t have to always be tied to similar appearances, traditional gender roles or certain abilities…and neither should your advertising. With my blindness and low vision I often can’t see the details of people’s facial expressions but I can still feel love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Football, Super Bowl, Wheelchair

Advertising, Disability & Super Bowl 50 are a Winning Combo

What’s my favorite Super Bowl ad? If I had to pick, there are more than a thousand options over the course of the game’s 50 years. But what’s my favorite Super Bowl ad inclusive of people with disabilities? Now the options shrink dramatically down to a handful. Encourage ‪#‎visibilityofdisability‬ in advertising during the big game and for that matter any day.

This year we’re lucky enough to have two more spots to consider among the best that are inclusive of disability, one from SunTrust Bank and the other from AXE, the number one men’s fragrance brand in the world.

“Masculinity today is going through seismic changes. More than ever, guys are rejecting rigid male stereotypes,” said Matthew McCarthy, Senior Director, AXE & Men’s Grooming for Unilever. “We’ve been part of guys’ lives for decades, and AXE champions real guys and the unique traits that make them attractive to the world around them.”

According to a SunTrust press release, the Super Bowl ad from SunTrust – called “Hold Your Breath” – is an optimistic, second-by-second reminder that worrying about money can cause you to miss life’s important moments. It’s based on the core belief that anyone can achieve financial confidence, as well as the research finding that financially confident people are three times more likely to be satisfied with their lives, across all income levels.

For me these inclusive ads are even better that last year’s, which you can find here, because disability is simply part of a larger group of diverse people represented in each of these advertisements. Disability isn’t singled out and elevated to the point of what some might consider sensationalism.

Even though Super Bowl 50 is still a few days away, those advertisers that are spending upwards of $5,000,000 for air time are already jostling for field position near their goal lines of social posts and increased sales. Advertising and media pundits have been weighing in on which brand will come out victorious and which ones may be losers. But among the hype of press releases, articles and interviews with agencies and marketing directors little focus is dedicated to advertising and disability.

Let’s make the conversation louder. Please share this post, vote on the USA Today Ad Meter for these two spots and let advertisers, agencies and trade publications like Advertising Week and Ad Age know that advertising and disability is important not only to the disability community but simply to the whole community.

By the way my favorite Super Bowl ad ever is this.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 12.04.46 AM

ABILITY Magazine – Celebrating 25 Years

It’s rare, at least for me, to say that I talked with an iconoclast, but recently I had the good fortune to interview the founder of ABILITY Magazine, Chet Cooper, who truly is just that. One of the nation’s leading advocates in equal employment, education and housing issues for people with disabilities, as shared in Chet’s official bio, he sought to alter society’s attitudes about people with disabilities and in 1991 launched ABILITY Magazine. Now in it’s 25th year, the publication continues to be groundbreaking in both large and small ways for readers and advertisers alike.


Chet Cooper interviewing Christopher Reeve.

First could you share a brief history of ABILITY Magazine and how it has evolved?    

“Our concept is to break through that trade publication stereotype and not be considered a trade publication, but a consumer publication that deals with disability and, more importantly human potential to always focus on abilities. From the beginning we’ve focused on stories of celebrities and high profile personalities allowing ABILITY Magazine to easily connect with new readers and broader audiences.

Many first-time readers who initially pick up the magazine for the celebrity stories become more engaged because of personal connections they, someone in their family or friend have to disability. Virtually everyone has a personal story connecting to disability.”

Chet wryly shared, “we’ve done the research and what we found after doing this homework is that we are looking at targeting two demographics – people with disabilities and people without disabilities.”

“Now, more than ever, many companies use ABILITY Magazine for HR diversity recruitment, and we also have ABILITYJobs.com — it was launched in 1995 and has become the largest site to recruit job seekers with disabilities.”

What is a common misconception some potential ABILITY Magazine advertisers may have about the magazine or more broadly about the disability audience and how do you work through that with them?

“Over the past 25 years, we’ve had every Fortune 500 company advertise in the magazine, but the majority of companies come and go and are not consistent in their placements. Many have seen it as the cause of the day, focusing on one diversity segment and then move onto another.

Within an advertiser’s marketing team there may be an individual that has great ideas for advertising and is a champion for disability inclusion and diversity, but that person may leave and then the idea dries up. I’d like to see advertisers be more consistent.

Toyota is one advertiser in ABILITY Magazine that has been consistent, centering their advertising on their inclusive mobility vehicle line and accessories. Nordstrom is another advertiser that has been in ABILITY Magazine and features various models with disabilities.”

Does a marketer’s message change within ABILITY Magazine versus other places advertised?

“We get too many companies that want to place an ad in ABILITY Magazine that includes someone in a wheelchair because of our magazine’s focus, but no matter what is in their ad, because of the context of their placement with us they are already advocating for people with disabilities. We try to explain to them to put the ad that features someone with a disability into their general placement circulation and put the other advertising they’d typically place in general market publications into ours. Why can’t the advertiser’s same ad that’s in ABILITY Magazine be in Forbes and Cosmopolitan? I’d love to see disability inclusive ads everywhere else to help change attitudes.”

Finally, what are some interesting articles or interviews we can look forward to from ABILITY Magazine in 2016?

“We’re doing more internationally focused work, including our recent articles and interviews from China. There also may be opportunities coming up for crowdsourcing some content.

Even 25 years after the American’s With Disabilities Act legislation it’s still a civil rights movement. Disability is the largest minority, and the only minority anyone can join, but it’s very hard to unify the voice. That’s why ABILITY Magazine continues to champion the cause.”
Check out more on ABILITY Magazine on Facebook, Twitter and at http://www.abilitymagazine.com/.

Lego, Toys

What One Lego Minifig Did To Ignite a Media Frenzy

I’m 42-years old and proud to say I still love Legos; they’re on my bedside table, on my desk at my office, and I once even created customized minifigs of all my coworkers. Today, because of the first-ever minifig with a disability released by the brickmaker, I love Lego even more.

This happened in part because of Rebecca Atkinson, co-founder of the #ToyLikeMe campaign, which is calling on the global toy industry to start representing disability. Many toy brands exclude 150 million children with disabilities worldwide by failing to positively represent them in products. 20,000 signatures to a Change.org petition and Lego listened.


Unveiled at a European toy fair and not yet available to the public, the minifig is in a wheelchair complete with a service dog. While this isn’t about advertising and disability, this is an amazing story of personal convictions, pop culture, and global publicity. Buzzfeed, the Guardian and dozens of other major media outlets are covering this.

Atkinson shared in a Guardian newspaper article, “For a child with a disability it would be hugely affirming to be reflected by a brand such as Lego. It tells them that the brand is behind them, believes in them, and that they are part of the mainstream. For children without a disability, seeing a brand such as Lego celebrate human difference helps to create a more positive attitude when they meet someone with an impairment in real life.”

Duplo, the larger brick sets for younger builders did introduce a figure in a wheelchair in 2015, and now with this minifig, momentum could be building not only for other disabilities to be included among Lego’s little yellow people but also among other toy brands.


All of the publicity is wonderful, but I do believe Lego has, in a small way, already connected with some in the disability community…well at least with me being blind in one eye and having a visual impairment in the other.



Masculinity, Symbols, Wheelchair

Axing Stereotypes With The First Disability Inclusive Ad of 2016

You might say New Year’s resolutions are about axing old, misguided habits and Unilever’s newest TV commercial for Axe body spray does just that by shifting away from stereotypical machismo to feature a broader interpretation of masculinity.

The announcer says “you don’t need heels when you ride those wheels,” and the commercial cuts to a man in a wheelchair dancing with his date at a prom.


72andSunny Amsterdam executive creative director Carlo Cavallone shared in Adweek that “Axe has always been at the forefront of culture and with ‘Find Your Magic,’ we’re out to liberate guys from pressure and bullshit, and empower them to be the most attractive men they can be—themselves.”

Matthew McCarthy, senior director of Axe and men’s grooming at Unilever shared in a press release that “Masculinity today is going through seismic changes. More than ever, guys are rejecting rigid male stereotypes.”

My hope for 2016 is that this ad won’t be one of only a handful, but that it will kick start conversations over the next 12-months for brand managers, marketing directors, writers, designers…and ultimately consumers. No matter the brand, every advertiser has the power to easily integrate people with disabilities into their advertising, commercials and campaigns. What are you waiting for? Find your magic with diversity and inclusive advertising.

Industry Awards

Disability on the Main Stage for the Association of National Advertisers’ Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference.

Among advertising and marketing professional organizations the Association of National Advertisers, ANA, is taking the lead in recognizing inclusion of people with disabilities. In 2014 the ANA introduced the Multicultural Excellence Award in the People with Disabilities category, the first of its kind in the industry, honoring outstanding work in the disability sector.

The 17th annual ANA Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference coming up November 8th through the 10th continues to expand relevance and recognition in the industry for people with disabilities.

Recently I spoke with Janine Martella, Director, Committees and Conferences for the ANA who noted this year’s event has even more to offer for advertisers and others in attendance. Last year’s conference had a breakout session on advertisers and disability and this year the conference will hold a presentation on the main stage led by Apoorva N. Gandhi, Vice President of Multicultural Affairs at Marriott International.

Of the award entrants, Janine shared, “there’s a very inclusive feeling in all of the finalist ads this year. They don’t just focus on a person or people with disabilities. The ads show that these people are part of family and friends of all abilities and within a larger multicultural community.”

Finalists in the mix are:




Why do you think disability, diversity and inclusion are more accepted topics?

Janine shared, “People’s perception of disabilities has changed and a disability can be defined more broadly, such as visible or invisible. There’s now a comfort level recognizing that people with disabilities are in our everyday lives; It’s not just about the people with the disability, it’s also about the people around them. Some advertisers are inclusive in their DNA, by that I mean we continue to hear more about brands recognizing and supporting people with disabilities, and their families, within their own organizations. Advertisers minds’ have been opened in regards to this category and it shows in their marketing efforts. For advertisers, inclusion of people with disabilities opens up a market segment that people may not have paid attention to.”

Rich Donovan, CEO, The Return on Disability Group, rings the NYSE Opening Bell® to celebrate the launch of the Barclays Return on Disability Exchange Traded Note (NYSE Arca: RODI).
customer segmentation, profitability

Shifting Perceptions & Shaping The PWD Story Around Profitability

In advertising, everyone wants to connect with Millennials – it’s the customer group to engage with. And why not? Dozens of industry reports point to this youth market as one of the most influential, largest groups with the most disposable income. Where do you think people with disability, as a minority group would rank? According to Rich Donovan, CEO of The Return on Disability Group,“With an estimated population of 1.3 billion, people with disabilities (PWD) constitute an emerging market the size of China. Their Friends and Family add another 2.3 billion potential consumers who act on their emotional connection to PWD. Together, they control over $8 trillion in annual disposable income. Companies seeking new ways to create value for stakeholders have a strong interest in attracting the spending of this increasingly powerful cohort.”

Rich Donovan easily sees, translates and shares the added-value benefits inclusion of the disability market brings to corporations and governments. From the website, http://www.rod-group.com, I learned that Rich “is a globally recognized subject matter expert on the convergence of disability and corporate profitability. Rich created the Return on Disability concept and model, and he provides corporate and government clients with insights and tools to frame disability as a global emerging market.”

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Rich and learn more about how he and the Return on Disability Group are making an impact.

Can you share more on the background of the Return on Disability? What keeps you passionate today?

It all comes back to one simple thing in business, what gets measured gets done, and frankly disability has never been legitimately on the radar. Many major corporations that have multiple brands under their management, collect, measure and monitor dozens of different data points on each consumer cohort, but disability has rarely been factored in.

Among the top performing brands, disability has never been measured in as rigorous a way that other typically sought after groups have. People with disabilities are a part of the marketplace – in a big way – and at the end of the day, there is an opportunity to measure impact and The Return on Disability Group is doing that.

What would you say has been the biggest stumbling block to greater visibility and voice for people with disabilities in advertising?

I think it all comes down to risk. Many times we cling to what we recognize and are familiar with. Marketers’ decisions are often rooted in the data and understanding of the marketplace, but that data doesn’t exist for people with disabilities like it does with other segments. It is difficult to see past that risk to the opportunities with that data and information.

What you’re going to see over the next few years is a data revolution where brands and companies are going to buy into the size and scope of the disability market, but to get that new data in front of these marketers is going to require rigorous research and understanding.

If you’re managing a billion dollar brand you’re not going to take a risk on disability, without a rigorous approach.

Within your business, what has been the most surprising insight for you?

I expected there to be much more skepticism, but the conversations have been simple. Brands will jump on this pretty quickly if you give them the data. The goal for these companies is to not connect their brand with people with disabilities once and walk away but to build this connectivity into the muscle of the company and brand.

Rich Donovan, CEO, The Return on Disability Group, rings the NYSE Opening Bell® to celebrate the launch of the Barclays Return on Disability Exchange Traded Note (NYSE Arca: RODI).

Can you share more about the Return on Disability Index?

The Return on Disability Index started as an internal measurement tool for our clients structured around three buckets: customer , talent and productivity. But I saw that this could be used as a research tool for a stock analysis and over several months went through the largest firms in the U.S. and Canada and determined who the best companies were in relation to creation of shareholder value with people with disabilities. The performance of the top actors stunned me.

Here’s more from the Return on Disability Group’s website:

The Return on Disability Group produces various equity indices containing the best performers in disability for global stock investors. These equity indices are updated and published daily by independent financial institutions. They provide a basis for investors to satisfy Environmental, Social and corporate Governance (ESG) investment mandates while maintaining focus on shareholder value.

Why does this work? Companies that ‘do disability well’ are also generally responsive to their customers, focused on finding great people, understand efficient process and outperform their competition in terms of value creation. Disability inspires lean process, innovation via extreme users and is a proven pool of talent – enhancing productivity. Over four research cycles generating over 156,000 data points, we have shown that companies that generate results on the Return on Disability model deliver increased shareholder value as measured by stock price gains.

When speaking to marketers or advertising agencies, is there a singular piece of data that you share that is the ‘ah ha’ or ‘lightbulb’ moment for them to see the opportunity to be more inclusive?

There are 2 specific pieces. First the disposable income of people with disabilities has always been portrayed as people with little money, but we’re seeing that the numbers, while they are slightly below average, represent a material addressable market. The picture painted by charities of destitution simply does not reflect the reality of the average consumer with a disability. People with disability are a viable market but have been portrayed as an impoverished group to raise charitable funds.

The second piece of information to consider is that friends and family are a key part of this market and it is NOT just people with disabilities that shift spend upon material outreach. Friends and family are impacted by advertising and from a brand perspective it doesn’t get any more powerful than the emotional tie to disability that can connect an entire family to an attractive message or igage.

Including friends and family in the people with disabilities population takes us from roughly 19 percent of the total US population to more than 55 percent and as a brand you could make a decision to not look at the 19 percent people with disabilities marketplace but to ignore the inclusion of family and friends would be foolish. This isn’t a niche – it’s a blockbuster.

The disability market is the biggest new market out there.

For more information on RIch Donovan and the Return on Disability Group, visit http://www.rod-group.com.