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Giffgaff’s head of advertising says not prioritizing accessibility is ‘counterintuitive’

Its BSL ad forms part of Giffgaff’s wider ‘Giffgaff gives back’ campaign

Following on from its first-ever ad in British Sign Language (BSL), mobile network Giffgaff is keen to work alongside the deaf community to improve the wider accessibility of its ads. The Drum caught up with the brand’s head of advertising, Abi Pearl, to find out more.

Giffgaff’s latest spot featured an animated version of one of its own members, Aleks, who had recently approached the brand about how it could make its advertising more inclusive to people in the deaf community. In the ad, Aleks uses sign language to convey the ad’s message, making it the first time the brand has featured BSL in its marketing.

“Our slogan has always been ‘the mobile network run by you’ and we’ve always featured our members in our advertising, so we’ve set about finding new and inclusive ways to get our customers involved,” explains head of advertising Abi Pearl.

The brand has been running its ‘Giffgaff gives back campaign’ since July, however Pearl elaborates that the brand has been encouraging members to approach them for the last 18 months. “In this case it was Aleks asking how we could make our ads more accessible – and when someone asks you that you really can’t say no!” she says.

Pearl explains that accessibility for the deaf community had already been on the brand’s mind, following training with the Manchester Deaf Centre that saw it take up the use of BSL interpreters internally, as well as sending staff on deaf awareness training.

Pearl also points out that, by nature, Giffgaff’s product has always lent itself toward accessibility as customers do not have to rely on call centers to reach customer services. “Our text response services were set up with accessibility in mind,” she says.

In order to create the ad, Giffgaff’s team, including senior brand manager Alexa Ponking, worked closely with Aleks to build the script in a way that he felt comfortable with. Pearl says that working closely with Aleks, who is deaf without speech, gave the brand insights into how it could better meet the needs of its deaf members. Some of Aleks’s suggestions included a monthly phone plan without minutes, as he does not make use of them.

“If you start to think when you are designing a product, ‘who would be most challenged in using it?’, you start with inclusion in mind. I think many of us just need to reset our attitudes on accessibility, and in doing so we will reach new audiences,” Pearl concludes.

Pearl says it’s currently too early to say whether the campaign has resulted in an uptake in Giffgaff membership among the deaf community, but the reaction from them has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The impact that you can have just by showing a community that you care about their needs and that you want to include them can make such a difference.

“ 0.06% of advertising in the UK features individuals with disabilities, yet 22% of the UK population are living with a limiting long term illness.”

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