Shift 20 - Uber's quest to lift representation in its marketing

Jason Pollock
By Jason Pollock | 9 October 2023
Andy Morley.

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.

Andy Morley, Director of Marketing at Uber and Uber Eats APAC

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

We hosted a meeting at our HQ in Sydney with Dylan and some of the biggest CMOs from across the country. Dylan shared his story about the self-perception challenges he felt from never seeing anyone with a disability on TV, and it was incredibly emotional and motivating. By the time Dylan had finished outlining what he wanted to achieve we were immediately in - as was every other brand around the table that day. Thinking back on it now I have goosebumps, and I am proud Uber had a seat at the table alongside nine other high profile brands that ended up being foundation signatories to champion - alongside Dylan and his team - why representation matters.

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?

Diversity and representation are always key considerations for us at Uber, and we have many campaigns featuring people with disabilities. We were also a sponsor of the Australian Paralympic team for the Tokyo Olympics.  However this campaign with the Dylan Alcott Foundation has helped deepen our understanding and desire to progress further. It's a moment to advance the conversation across the industry. Non able bodied people use our products everyday and find the Uber platform a valuable part of their everyday lives. That said, we know we can improve our product experience and that will always be our primary focus. Having the most accessible platform is unapologetically our north star but just as we can continue to improve on our accessibility, we can also continue to lift representation in our marketing. For Uber this has been a great learning experience and something we are going to build on outside of marketing with greater consultation with groups like the Dylan Alcott Foundation.

How did you decide which of your TVCs to change? 

We worked in partnership with the Dylan Alcott Foundation and Special, and followed their directive for the most suitable spot and most authentic casting. We've also extended their involvement across to our social content to support our Uber Reserve campaign extension. So we're seeing representation across more than just our television spots. 

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

We haven't received any feedback on the campaigns so far, and they were actually on air a week before the announcement. That's kind of the point, it's a reflection of society so viewers expect to see this type of representation. That said we've had a heap of internal feedback on the campaign from our staff - you could say these spots have helped catalyse our focus on the importance of this type of casting internally.

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

I don't think there's a lesson in it for CMOs more than there is for marketers of all levels, and indeed all stakeholders across any given business. People that use your products everyday want to see themselves in your campaigns. It makes sense and as an industry our stagnation was the result of being unsure how to represent the community in a way that didn't feel tokenistic. Through consultation with groups like the Dylan Alcott Foundation we are starting to feel confident that we are moving forward in a meaningful and authentic way.

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

Dylan himself has said it best, we all just need to keep chipping away at it together. These campaigns are a powerful reminder of the significant impact advertising can have. I believe the most interesting advertising comes from telling the most interesting stories, and often people with unique backgrounds or situations have some of the most interesting and inspiring stories to tell, so ultimately it ladders up to more impactful advertising. I sincerely hope other brands - outside of the foundational partners - can feel encouraged to build on this moment of their own accord. 

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