Brand Dig: From Maltesers to Scope, brands are using the bravery of humour to approach disabilities

In this blog series, we dig into the world of marketing and discuss brands, news, trends and examples that have made the digital headlines.

In this week’s post, marketer Kyle looks at how brands move away from the norm and courageously use creative to change perceptions using genuine audience insights.

When it comes to driving awareness for charitable causes, empathy has become the standard mechanism for brands to appeal to the public. The emotive music, soft lighting and dramatic reveal, all aimed to leave you sitting at your desk with a lump in your throat as you hold back those, unproductive, unprofessional office tears, feeling sorry for the characters in this doomed 30 second advert. The problem is as an advertising concept, it’s become a little clichéd. In recent years, though certain brands have veered away from this trend and instead decided to gain insight from real people with real disabilities and use humour rather than pity, to courageously step where not many other advertisers would dare to go.


Maltesers remind us to always look on the light side of life

To start 2017 off properly, manufacturers of those delectable chocolates Maltesers launched a billboard in London yesterday, written in braille to celebrate International Braille Day. This continues from last year’s effort to better represent disabilities in advertising. The poster, positioned at bus stops, reads in a custom braille font made of Maltesers: “Caught a fast bus once – turns out it was a fire engine.” It’s the combination of inclusion and humour that makes this campaign so sweet, and a welcome break from careful avoidance of what brands find tricky topics or focusing too hard on the disability itself. This also raises awareness with the general public, because there is now an interest to read what the ad actually says.

This campaign carries on from last year, when Maltesers launched a series of ads aimed at the humorous situations people with disabilities find themselves in. Now if you or I would go into the boardroom and pitch this idea to the boss, chances are we’re going to end up in the HR office with further counselling sessions to follow. Creative agency AMV BBDO who are behind last year’s campaign decided to be brave and break the stigma by using humour. In a series of three ads, disabled people tell stories using Maltesers as a prop to illustrate the funny circumstances they find themselves in. This puts us in their shoes and instead of feeling pity for the disability itself, we simply feel connected with the protagonists – could’ve been us crushing that bride’s foot, be it with a wheelchair or a stiletto heel.

Scope makes things awkward to great effect.

Treating disabilities as part of the norm can be tricky at times because the majority are non-disabled, and often quite uncomfortable around disabled people. As a result, knowing how to act can be difficult – something disabled people have to face daily. Scope, the disability charity in England and Wales wanting to counter this unnecessary awkwardness, approached this by placing people in situations inspired by real stories from disabled people.  Six shorts were aired on UK broadcaster All 4, aimed at educating and informing people about what people with disabilities deal with on a day to day basis. We promise that watching the video below will make your palms sweat – and yes, the campaign worked perfectly as it provided some much-needed humour around the subject. It’s success even helped inspire Scope’s H.I.D.E motto, which teaches the often-nervous public how to be themselves around individuals with a disability.

Think Beyond the Label shows us just how disabled everyone is

We all have flaws or things we’re just useless at, that’s a fact. Since we are all beautiful imperfect creations and all suck at something, couldn’t you argue we are all disabled in some way or another? Unfortunately, for the disabled, their imperfections are just a little more visible than our own (unless you dress like this). Knowing this, health and disability advocates Think Beyond the Label in the USA created an advert that explores the disabilities that exist in each one of us. The key message: although we all have differences, we are all human, which makes us the same – and that’s what non-disabled people could do remembering.

What makes these campaigns so inspiring is that the creators showed the courage to take a different route than most: a more inclusive one – something that may have started with charities out of necessity, but is moving to big brands like Maltesers, too. We’re looking forward to more big brands stepping up to the plate of inclusive advertising, using the reality from their audiences as the inspiration for their creative approach.

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Kyle Ryan