Agency leaders pledge to better disability representation

By Ruby Derrick | 17 May 2024

Inclusively Made hosted major Australian brands including Nine Entertainment, Big W, ABC, Bupa and Telstra, alongside creative agencies and production firms Thinkerbell, BMF, Hogarth and M&C Saatchi on Wednesday at the National Inclusion Commitment event.

The event's ambition was to embed inclusion as business as usual in the global production and entertainment industries. 

The function, held at Boston Consulting Group’s Headquarters in Sydney, saw industry leaders sign the Inclusion Commitment to reaffirm their steadfastness to creating a more inclusive and representative marketing landscape in Australia.

The Inclusion Commitment pledge signified a commitment to three key actions; increasing authentic representation of people with disabilities in marketing campaigns to promote inclusion and acceptance, championing inclusive practices in marketing and production to create pathways for disability inclusion and partnering with Inclusively Made to align efforts in advancing inclusive practices across media and production.

Business figure and long-term champion of inclusivity in marketing Ann Sherry said in a world where one in five people live with a disability, there is a severe underrepresentation of writers and actors with disability in advertising and marketing-related content, and sometimes entirely non-existent.

"For the organisations here and those of you who are in marketing within organisations looking to speak to the world, this is about customers," Sherry said.

"The number of people looking for inclusivity and some way of testing whether things really are as good as they say they are is rowing because people are more activist as customers."

Every time people inside organisations think it's not a big enough market, that's not true, Sherry says. 

"The latest research says this is a $13 trillion global market. The representation of people with disabilities is still really small; an occasional ad pops up. The companies that signed up at the beginning and are practicing the things that they say perform better, hold people, have fewer absentees and have lower turnover of people with family commitments than with companies that haven't."

"We've witnessed leading Australian companies address that urgent need, by signing the Inclusion Commitment, which is the first step in championing and encouraging inclusive practices by brands and agency leaders in their marketing communications".

Attendees at the event engaged in discussions with former Paralympic medallist Paul Nunnari PSM, who is also the CEO of Inclusively Made. Nunnari shared his personal journey and the progress in fostering inclusion in marketing nationwide.

"It's humbling to see some of the country’s biggest companies embracing the Inclusion Commitment. Their commitment demonstrates a collective effort towards fostering authentic representation and advancing inclusive practices of people with disability in media and production," he said.

"This will make an amazing difference, to children who see themselves reflected in the content that we make. If we can remvoe those social and attitudinal barriers through the content we produce, agitate those misconceptions, we can make a fundmanetal difference."

Disability has an intersectionality to it as well.

"You may not have a disability today, but you could have one tomorrow. Disability will always be a part of our lives - it's just a different way of being. That's how we need to see it, and be proud of that," Nunnari said.

"If clothing or a brand is more representative to a person with a disability, and casts them and projects them in an authentic way, it's not just the person with the disability who will make a purchase. It might be the brother or the sister, the cousin...their entire networks."

Among the organisations to pledge their commitment, and a foundation partner of Inclusively Made, Nine Entertainment’s CMO Liana Dubois said Nine is focused on the stories that bring us together.

"We will continue to strive to represent the audiences we serve right across Australia. Our partnership with Inclusively Made has strategically evolved our approach to representation, ensuring we can integrate inclusive thinking and practices into our every day.”

Inclusively Made founder and chair Henry Smith said the team is incredibly proud to host and see so many organisations taking inclusion seriously and committing to inclusive diverse marketing practices.

"With over two decades of experience in filmmaking and production, our journey at Inclusively Made has led us to this transformative moment and it continues to grow."

Take the pledge here.

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