Two advertising campaigns show, for better and worse the opportunities and pitfalls of diversity and disability inclusion.
What was touted as one of the of the most diversity-friendly commercials to date, to promote enjoying lamb on Australia Day, was in fact one of the worst examples of progressive inclusion in media. With so much diversity, how could this commercial, the ad agency creative team and ultimately the client miss the mark so completely when it comes to inclusion best practices? Simply put, people were props.
The campaign with the hashtag #unitedwelamb was to show how lamb could bring everyone together on Australia Day. The client, Meat and Livestock Australia shared “What’s the best thing about diversity? Everything! So let’s all unite with the meat that doesn’t discriminate, lamb.” While the supposedly lighthearted commercial brought together dozens Australians with varied physical looks and abilities and from diverse religions and cultures, the execution came across as stereotypical, trite and hackneyed.
In some ways we can applaud the fact that more advertising is inclusive of people with disabilities. But this newfound visibility without informed and educated planning and portrayals could potentially be more damaging that no inclusion at all. By continuing and even adding to misconceptions and misrepresentation, or simply not telling as rich a story, some ads create more barriers.
Some brands are making a difference, though.
Australian retailer Target is taking a more grounded and altruistic approach with a commitment to diversity, inclusion and representation of people with disabilities in advertising.
Robyn Lambird, a 19-year-old, who has cerebral palsy and is a fierce advocate for people living with disability, is featured in Target Australia’s new activewear spring catalogue. She is believed to be the first adult with a visible disability to star in an advertising campaign for a major Australian retailer, according to The West Australian newspaper.
A Target spokesperson shared, “We embrace all Australians regardless of race, shape, size or disability. Target is an inclusive brand and our aim is to be true to the diversity of Australia. So when we approached Robyn, we thought she would be perfect. Our customers responses have been overwhelmingly positive.”
The Target campaign came about based on her ambassadorial role with western Australia-based not for profit organisation Starting with Julius, which promotes people with disability in Australian advertising and media.
National Disability Services western Australia manager Julie Waylen shared that “it was important for people with disability to be represented in advertising and all forms of media. We applaud advertisers like Target for taking this step because it shows the leading role retailers can have in shaping a positive narrative around the inclusion of people with disability, reflecting the world we live in.”
Below is a video of Robyn Lambird sharing the importance of advertising and disability.
Yes there are potential risks and pitfalls to including people with disabilities, but the same is true with diversity and inclusion of any minority, and on the other end of the spectrum there are major rewards and benefits. For creative directors and directors of marketing I’d say be creative, but be informed, and take an approach to inclusion that isn’t just for one ad or to meet a diversity quota, but as part of a long-term campaign plan. In the creative planning process, be proactive in reaching out to people and organizations in the disability community to ensure messaging is…on target.
In this advertising and disability battle between Australian lamb and Robyn Lambird, Robyn wins.