Creative Works Media Planning and Buying Media

Australia’s biggest brands create ‘Unignorable Adbreak’ to support disability representation

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By Ellen Ormesher, Senior Reporter

September 18, 2023 | 7 min read

Spots from the likes of Kia, McDonald’s, Oral-B, Pantene and Uber culminated in a media roadblock during primetime TV.

Shift 20

Australians with disability make up almost 20% of the population but just 1% of advertising

10 of Australia’s most well-known brands came together on Sunday night (September 17) in an attempt to improve the representation of disabled people with an ‘Unignorable Adbreak’ that aired during the national television show The Sunday Project.

It swapped out key scenes from the brands’ usual advertising to include a person with a disability as the coalition launched its Shift 20 Initiative led by the Dylan Alcott Foundation – which is focused on increasing disability representation, inclusion, and accessibility in Australian advertising and media.

Australians with disabilities make up almost 20% of the population, yet in advertising, they are only represented 1% of the time.

The foundation partners made up of AAMI, ANZ, Bonds, Kia, McDonald’s, Nib, Oral-B, Pantene, Uber, Weet-Bix, TikTok, Tourism Australia and Virgin Australia all ran altered spots in the run-up to the broadcast event which was conceived by Special and the Dylan Alcott Foundation over two years ago.

Shift 20 Initiative x McDonald's - Winter Huddle from Special Group on Vimeo.

Shift 20 Initiative x Pantene - 3 Minute Miracle from Special Group on Vimeo.

Shift 20 Initiative x Uber - Uber Reserve from Special Group on Vimeo.

Ryan Fitzgerald, executive creative director at Special, said: “When we first started talking to Dylan about the issue, we knew this couldn’t simply be an awareness job. We needed to do something bold that made a statement, and more importantly, created real change with a long-lasting impact.

“Changing out something that has already been and including a person with disability is a simple yet powerful way to highlight that people with disability can easily fill the same roles as anyone else.

“Whether it’s changing the iconic face of a brand, brand representatives or simply the characters in the stories we tell, our industry is in a powerful position to send a message to 20% of Australia that, up until now, has gone largely unseen to say ‘we see you’.

“Outside of the ‘Unignorable Adbreak’ the Shift 20 Initiative is a crucial part of ensuring long lasting change in this space. The organisation is designed to set the standard for what disability representation looks like and give others the tools and resources to make an impact.”

The majority of the production re-shoots were led by Revolver, featuring both talent and crew with disabilities. There was also essential oversight from a variety of disability consultants and production partners, such as Bus Stop Films, to ensure the production environment was inclusive. This included consultancy on the casting process, production considerations for people with a disability, disability riders, crew attachments and Auslan translators.

Lindsey Evans, partner at Special and board sirector at Advertising Council Australia, said: “The support from the industry has been instrumental to launching this initiative. This is about sharing and educating the wider industry as to the massive commercial and cultural opportunity of having representation of the whole population. We hope more brands see this and want to get involved. We have learnt so much from Dylan, the talent and production partners. We can all do better together - as an industry, as consumers and as brands.”

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A dedicated website has been built to give brands access to best practice resources to create more accessible and inclusive communications. Brands can sign up and find out more about the Shift 20 Initiative at shift20.org and be part of the change.

The campaign is rolling out across TV, OOH, cinema, earned media, social, and digital and has even driven product innovation ensuring that all assets created have been built to be truly accessible.

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