In recent times, there is a new trend that is emerging in the world of advertisement — things are getting more realistic. You can now see disabled persons being portrayed in the ads . While it’s not the first time that a commercial has included a differently abled person in a creative, an increasing number of brands are choosing to be more realistic in their representation of society through advertising.
– For KFC India, the new advertisement was a refreshing new take on the bond of friendship—and the celebration of “unlikely friendships”. The ad for its Friendship Bucket, starts with two friends sitting at a KFC restaurant communicating in sign language. The ad ends with a voice-over, saying, “Dost jitney alag hote hain, Friendship utni kamal ki hoti hai!”
– The latest digital film for Paper Boat, the traditional drinks brand from Hector Beverages, features a visually challenged, old man who lives alone in a quaint hill town.
– The new Google India ad released in May for Google Photos launched with a five-minute film, chronicling the journey of Amit Tiwari, a resident of Jhansi, who suffered from severe corneal dystrophy in both eyes which left him almost completely blind in school. The film covers his journey through a life-changing operation to the recovery of his sight.
– Last year, Nestle came up with a heart-warming ad for Nescafe coffee featuring a stand-up comedian who stammers, while an ad for Birla Sun Life wove a story around a father and his autistic son. These are people who had, till almost a few years ago, seen no representation in mainstream advertising.
Lluis Ruiz Ribot, chief marketing officer, KFC India said, “We believe that the more unlike your friends are from you, the richer the friendship is. That’s why in the new campaign we feature stories about friends that are different, yet together.” The company is one of the few that actually walks the talk. KFC India has been known to have inclusive policies and employs differently abled people.
“It’s perfectly natural to be differently abled. Whether it’s in our own lives, or those of our relatives and friends… you constantly encounter people who are differently abled. It was only a matter of time that advertising started reflecting that reality. And as long as the representation is natural and not over-dramatized or contrived, it will work well,” said Amit Akali, managing partner and creative head, What’s Your Problem, a Mumbai-based, digital-focussed advertising agency, pointing to the beautifully made ad film, Meet the Superhumans, for the Paralympic Games.
Explaining why this strategy makes sense for brands, Prathap Suthan, managing partner and chief creative officer at the agency Bang in the Middle says, “There is nothing wrong in showing differently abled people in advertising. That’s a reality. And that’s the real world. The harsher victims of nature. That comes along with all sorts of expressions. From transgenders, blind, mute, paraplegics, acid attack survivors, accident survivors, to almost anyone who has a human frailty. Using human stories and opening windows into the truth of life is admirable. I also think ads that include them run this risk of being double edged. The good and bad. For me, I am willing to see this as a wonderful embrace of equality and humanity, and ignore the marketing and commercial gain that the brand stands to gain from this which is now a very obvious global and social trend.”
According to the 2011 census data, 2.21% of the population is disabled, a number that experts claim is under-reported, owing to the stigma attached to the condition, something that brands are attempting to change with their inclusive messaging.