Where are all of the People with Disabilities in Television Commercials?
Social media drives the conversations about everything from politics, sports, travel, technology and any other topic. Yet, television advertising still drives commercial communication. For that reason the lack of people with disabilities appearing in this important marketing medium is quite disappointing. Why do people with disabilities need to wait for the Super Bowl to see images of people like them appearing in television commercials? Television advertisements during the Super Bowl are often as entertaining as the game itself, and over the last three years have included people with disabilities. Major brands are beginning to recognize the purchasing power of the disability market. Probably the most memorable and impactful television commercial during the Super Bowl happened in 2013. Guinness introduced viewers to the notion that with disabilities playing basketball are just like their nondisabled peers. When you decide to include someone in a wheelchair there is always the possibility might accidentally create an ad that is exploitive or condescending to the person with the disability. You run the risk of someone might take it the wrong way, or question your motives. Unfortunately, because of this, the advertising world tends to play it safe and features only able-bodied individuals in commercials. Any deviation from that norm is newsworthy.
Few companies have accepted the responsibility of promoting disability inclusion in their television advertisements. In 2008 Boeing broke new ground in this area. Others have followed by making it standard practice to include people with disabilities in their television advertisements such as Petco and Fitbit. This should not be a surprise since United States people with disabilities represent the third-largest consumer segment and globally the number is equally a significant period.
Since television advertising has the highest efficiency at achieving key performance indicators it would make sense for brands to reflect the world around them. When you want to get a message out, commercials on TV are still a giant megaphone and the most powerful means to do that. Brand development is important, but so is measuring the effectiveness of the commercial communication. Including people with disabilities in that brand development and commercial communication is no longer a luxury it is good business.