CommercialsPop PromosShort Films    UKInternational

The Unignorable Adbreak.

by Syd Briscoe

A coalition of Australian brands have teamed up with Special Group, The Glue Society and PHD to create the Shift 20 Initiative, which aims to increase disability representation onscreen. The movement is named as such because, despite receiving only 1% of screen time in ads, Aussies with disabilities make up 20% of the population.

The initiative took well-known commercials for the participating brands (McDonalds, Kia, Pantene, and many more) and re-shot them in order to include someone with a disability. The premise itself demystifies the thorny issue of 'representation' for brands: include people, it's just that simple.

It's an understated yet highly effective way of encouraging the audience to ask questions about representation. If changing a familiar ad to feature a disabled person doesn't alter its message, then why not do so in the first place? Some of the re-created spots are blink and you'll miss it subtle in their new form, like an ad for Uber which demonstrates how unremarkable inclusion can be.

In other cases, the reshoot makes a big change to the commercial itself - not to its message, but to the way it communicates with the audience. A cheeky outing for Bonds underwear, for example, uses Auslan in a way which grabs audience attention due to its relative lack of sound during a busy ad break... arguably making it more effective than its original cousin.

Lindsey Evans, partner at Special and board director at Advertising Council Australia, said of the campaign: "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 can all do better together - as an industry, as consumers and as brands."

This enlightening short documentary led by Dylan Alcott - whose eponymous foundation led the charge to bring the Shift 20 Initiative into being - further explores the process behind breathing life into a truly inclusive ad break. Much more than a stunt, this is a message to brands about just how easy it is to reflect people's real lives on screen, and will encourage them to diversify their casts accordingly.