The phenomenal commercial success of the London Paralympics in 2012 for advertisers signalled a new interest in this ‘niche’ market (of 1.3 billion people across the globe).
The continued interest was clearly demonstrated by the fact that 90 companies and agencies participated in Channel 4’s Superhumans Wanted competition, launched in the run up to this year’s Paralympics, to encourage brands and agencies to feature disability in their ad campaigns. But then again there was also a £1 million worth of advertising space as an incentive!
The winning advertisements by Maltesers and agency AMV BBDO were developed as part of Maltesers UK’s “Look on the Light Side” series of ads, and, like the other ads in the series, feature actors chatting with friends about everyday life situations while chomping on (and interacting with) a packet of Maltesers. The winning ads are funny, relatable and - in a departure from the norm - they feature disabled actors as just ‘normal’ people.
The benefit for the Maltesers Brand goes far beyond the free advertising space offered by Channel 4 in terms of exposure and enhanced reputation.
The ads, launched to an audience of two million viewers during the 2016 Paralympics Games Opening Ceremony, have been phenomenally successful both in media circles and with the general population, including the disability community. New Boyfriend, in particular, has been viewed on YouTube more than one and a half million times - more than 10 times more than the other ads in the series. Articles have been published in a wide range of media – from Business Insider to Glamour to The Sun to Marketing Week. And they have been endlessly discussed on social media – achieving a much broader impact than most chocolate ads!
So, the return for Mars Chocolate UK was probably worth much more than the 1 million sterling that the advertising slots have been valued at.
But why are the ads considered so innovative? For one thing, it is one of the few times that people with disabilities have been portrayed in contexts that are not disability-specific. Secondly, New Boyfriend is probably the first ad aired on British TV in which a disabled actor discusses a sex act. And Theo’s Dog is the first fully-signed language ad in the UK! Furthermore, this commercial was initially shown without subtitles, which meant that most viewers were unable to understand it – talk about role reversal!
Mars is to be commended for its best practice approach by developing the campaign with guidance from disability charity Scope. We are also very excited that Mars has publicly expressed an intention to continue to reflect the diversity of the British public through richer, more inclusive and inspiring advertising.
The short ‘behind the scenes’ video of the making of the Maltesers “Look on the light side of Disability” ads is also worth watching here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mx12fTwOQl0
The ads will run across the Channel 4 Sales channel network throughout the autumn. But what happens then? The Paralympics only happen once every 4 years!! Like Maltesers, we believe that life is better when we don’t take things too seriously but we hope we don’t have to wait until 2020 to see similar portrayals of people with disabilities in mainstream advertising.
Wouldn’t it be great if Mars, all 90 companies who participated in the Superhumans Wanted competition and many, many more started to reflect and celebrate everyday life of all people in their advertising, until it is no longer newsworthy, just part of everyday life?