Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Advertising that is more accessible to visually and hearing-impaired consumers has come under the spotlight since Procter & Gamble committed to making their campaigns easier for such people to understand. Cost and complexity, the company says in an article posted on www.marketingweek.com, are not challenges. Will local brands be following in the footsteps of the FMCG giant?

Reflecting on the SA market, Mike Beukes, executive creative director at Duke, says there are two sides to the story about inclusive advertising:  the cynical version and the more idealistic one. “The cynical version – which I don’t support – is that in SA the overwhelming majority of those who are handicapped are also unemployed or retired. The sad fact is that it then follows that they also have limited spending power to support the brands that support the work we do. So the cynic might ask whether advertising really needs to be more inclusive when at the end of the day it’s about driving sales.”

The big take-out: With Procter & Gamble ensuring that its advertising is more accessible to visually and hearing impaired people, Duke’s Mike Beukes says basic changes to work that is targeted at mainstream consumers would bring disabled consumers into the mainstream world.

But Beukes is quick to point out that he believes the work should run deeper than that, saying that when it is done well, such advertising can become part of our country’s culture – it’s been done time and time again.

“I fully support the idea that work should become more inclusive,” he says. He believes there are a multitude of basic things that could be done to improve the situation. These include having audio descriptions on TV that paint a full picture of commercials, more theatrical radio spots that tell a longer story, Braille versions in relevant places and public transport communications which are more visual, tactile or inclusive through sound.

“These are changes that may not feature in the awards shows, but would bring more people into our world.” It also, Beukes says, is probably more about being human than about creating commercial viability for brands.

In SA, radio is one of our key media, and is perfectly positioned for the sizeable number of consumers with impaired vision. However, Beukes says the company is not creating – on radio or anywhere else – communication that specifically takes these audiences on a deeper or richer journey. In fact, it’s pretty much the same journey that everyone else is on.

“Another way of framing inclusive advertising is instilling pride into people who are in some way impaired,” he says. He uses the example of the “Super Humans” television advert run on the UK’s Channel 4 TV station for the 2012 paralympics, which he saw while living in London.  It showed various members of the British paralympic team in action.

“It takes a lot for an ad to get me out of my seat and act, but this was such a perfect piece of powerful, deeply moving storytelling that I was holding paralympics tickets within minutes,” he recalls. “Perhaps inclusive advertising is not so much about technical inclusions of a media channel, but about tapping into stories in ways that build pride or create empathy for those who might later encounter them.” 

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