Key lessons in approaching diversity and inclusion in advertising

Attitude Foundation director Catia Malaquias was featured this week by Pro Bono Australia as a significant change maker. The feature article outlines Catia’s journey from the mother of three children, including a son with Down syndrome (his name inspiring her Starting with Julius project), to her work as an advocate to promote  what she describes as “truth in advertising” and her broader involvement in promoting the inclusion of people with a disability in society, media and advertising.

Catia’s journey shows five key lessons in approaching diversity and inclusion in advertising:

1.       Many advertisers make a conscious effort to include diverse cultural backgrounds, body shapes, ages and gender but disability is often not included in that diversity message, despite it representing 20% of the population. This is a significant market to ignore.

2.       The community wants to see diversity and truth in advertising, authenticity and a reflection of themselves.

3.       People with disabilities, their families and friends are very aware that some advertising excludes people with disabilities and it stands out as something is “missing” and makes the product less attractive.

4.       Tokenistic approaches like “let’s include a person with a disability in our next campaign” don’t work. Disability is part of the everyday mix of people and advertising needs to reflect that mix.

5.       Inclusiveness in advertising is a powerful public statement that helps build inclusiveness in the workplace, for employees, suppliers and customers.

Catia is a strong advocate of the power of advertising to build corporate inclusiveness, “For me, it is partly about the message that goes out into the community, the external message, but I think it is also the message that goes into creating corporate culture, in building trust for employees that the places that they work value them and are disability confident, so it is also part of just creating a more inclusive culture in business as well.”

The Attitude Foundation works with a number of organisations in helping them build disability inclusion into all aspects of their operations, including Founding Sponsor ANZ.

Attitude Foundation has also published a useful guide for creating accessible and inclusive content.

The Foundation’s goal is to create a television documentary series with real stories of people with disability told in their own voices.


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