Over the last few weeks we’ve been reflecting on the impact of the Paralympics on brand efforts throughout the games. Channel 4 again spearheaded the coverage of the Paralympics, and this year they encouraged advertisers to reflect diversity in their campaigns, going as far as offering £1 million worth of airtime to the best campaign idea featuring disabled people. Maltesers’ #LookOnTheLightSide was the stand out winner from over 90 entries.
What is it?
Working with the disability charity Scope, Maltesers developed the ad based on the real life experiences of people with disabilities. Borrowing cues of female honesty from programmes like ‘Girls’ and ‘Inside Amy Schumer’, the ad portrays Storme’s character as fully dimensional, with a sexualised life – in contradiction to the controversial portrayal of disability in the recent film ‘Me Before You’. Following direction from Scope, Maltesers say that they were keen to use humour to break social taboos surrounding disability.
Why does it work?
By showing people with disabilities as neither superheroes, nor people to be pitied, Maltesers is pushing culture in a direction which sees disability as normalised. The fact that they cast actors that have real disabilities also lends their campaign authenticity, which brands such as Vogue have recently been criticised for (link to vogue controversy). Crucially, the ad fits in with their brand message of #LookOnTheLightSide; ensuring that their backing of disability awareness through humour is perceived as genuine.
Taking the idea further?
During their Paralympics coverage, Channel 4 screened a world first ad break that was entirely signed using British Sign Language by deaf actor David Ellington. When the Maltesers advert featuring BSL appeared, David sat back, ate a packet of Maltesers and watched the advert with the viewers at home. The audacity of Maltesers to put out a 30sec TV spot with no audible speech, requiring viewers to read subtitles did not go unnoticed:
Recent statistics show that there are 12 million disabled people in the UK, making up 20% of the population, and that 80% of people feel underrepresented by TV and media. We’d love to see Maltesers not only continuing to show their adverts outside of the Paralympics timeframe, but to work harder to make their adverts accessible to their audience. Providing BSL, subtitles and Audio Description for all of their adverts would be a huge expression of their support for the disabled community in the UK, and would help the general public become more comfortable with disability.
With cash prize incentives removed, only time will tell if brands continue their efforts to portray a more diverse Britain in their adverts.