Shift 20 - Bonds' next step on its inclusivity journey

Jason Pollock
By Jason Pollock | 4 October 2023
Kedda Ghazarian.

Ten of Australia’s most well known brands are coming together in support of disability representation with the ‘Unignorable Adbreak’, swapping out key scenes in their advertising to include a person with disability.

The ‘Unignorable Adbreak’ is a campaign by the Shift 20 Initiative, led by the Dylan Alcott Foundation and focused on increasing disability representation, inclusion and accessibility in Australian advertising and media. 

During the month of October, AdNews is speaking to marketing leaders at some of the companies taking part in the initiative, finding out why they wanted to get involved, the response to the ads, what the industry needs to do better and more.

Kedda Ghazarian, marketing manager at Bonds

What made you want to get involved with the Shift 20 Initiative?

We’ve been on a journey within our business around Accessibility & Inclusion for some time and working closely with the Australian Network on Disability, so it felt like a natural next step.  

Most Aussie households have at least one Bonds item in their undie & sock drawer, so as a big Aussie brand we’re focused on reflecting and representing all Aussies, including those with disability. Every time we post on socials featuring someone with disability we get such positive feedback about the difference this kind of representation makes, and it fuels us to speak louder and do even more. 

Were you already working with talent with a disability (either in front of or behind the camera) or was this a first for your brand?

Over the last few years, we’ve really focused on how we can drive authentic and inclusive representation and have been very lucky to work with great partners that have supported this vision – some of our recent campaigns like Bloody Comfy Period Undies and Wonderbums both feature talent with physical and non-physical disability.

We have learnt so much going through this process and working with deaf talent for the very first time. Nathan was incredible to work with and we had an awesome crew of translators and experts behind the scenes to make sure that our ad worked for both hearing and deaf audiences, and that the Auslan translation made sense. And now our team all know how to sign underwear! 

How did you decide which of your TVCs to change?

Our Total Package undie ads have been running since last year, so it just made sense to take something that Aussies were so familiar with and flip the script!  

Have you received any feedback from the public in response to the ads?

The commentary that’s come through since launching has been so overwhelmingly positive. It’s incredibly moving to hear the impact this has on our community and those living with disability – we’ve heard a lot from parents in particular who are so excited for their deaf children to see this kind of representation in a Bonds ad. Here’s a couple that really stuck with us… 

  • “This right here matters, THIS is inclusion! My son deserves to grow up feeling seen, being represented and feeling goddamn proud of his disabilities.” -
  • “As a doctor and mum of a baby recently diagnosed with an ‘invisible disability’ seeing this makes me so happy and positive for my bub’s future. I constantly have to advocate for my young child who is Deaf. All I can say is THANK YOU and it is so awesome seeing Nathan Borg featured and representing the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.” - @milknboobz

What do you hope other CMOs and marketing/advertising leaders take away from this initiative?

If this initiative can get advertisers to think differently about how people with disability can be part of their storytelling then that’s a great start. A willingness to learn and a progress not perfection mindset is really key to driving change and helping representation of disability become commonplace.

I hope this is one of many instances where brands can come together to make a shift and push the industry forward – to go far, we have to go together. We’re by no means experts, but we’re open to providing our learnings to any other marketing teams that might benefit from them.

What do you think the advertising and marketing industries need to do moving forward to ensure that people with a disability are better represented?

Representation is so important, in all its forms. I think there’s more the industry can do to help support up-and-coming models or actors with disability, and those behind the scenes too. I’d encourage other marketers to be open to casting talent with a disability for any type of role, not just those scripted with disability, and looking at how they can adjust their casting briefs to make it clear you’re actively seeking and supportive of all people being considered for campaigns. 

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