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Driving equity in advertising production industry for persons with disabilities


When 73% of people with disabilities told us they felt disenfranchised from the production industry. We asked content creators from the community to help us change that. The result is an on-set commitment and inclusive production toolkit that’s open source for industry use.

Camera operator in a production crew helping a fellow crew member with disabilities use the camera on set

You need an impressive list of production skills to make great advertising that resonates with your audience. Video editing, producing, camera operating, subtitling, directing and scriptwriting are just some at the top of the list.

These are also the key tools that 50 content creators from the disabled community told Unilever they most use to create social posts for their own media channels.

Yet, despite persons with disabilities accounting for 16% of the global population and the obvious overlap in skillsets, the disabled community remains the most underrepresented group in the media. That’s across genres and role types, both on- and off-screen.

In Nielsen’s 2022 Attitudes on Representation on TV study, 34% of people with disabilities who were surveyed said they felt underrepresented in the media and 52% said when they were, it was inaccurately.

Actor and wheelchair user working on a production set

Eliminate the bias, Believe in Talent

Addressing bias and breaking down stereotypes in marketing and advertising is something Unilever takes very seriously. “If we want to see systemic change in society, we need to see systemic change in our industry,” says Aline Santos, Chief Brand Officer and Chief Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

It’s why our Act 2 Unstereotype programme comprises a bold set of commitments to ensure that equity, diversity and inclusion are adopted throughout our end-to-end marketing processes, from insight generation to the representation of people both in front of and behind the camera.

“As we continue to strive for better creativity in our advertising and seek to build better connections with all people around the world, it’s imperative that persons with disabilities are part of the creative process, working both behind the camera and on screen,” Aline adds.

“Content creators have created this wonderfully inclusive space on social media and are showing us that it’s possible to be authentic and break stereotypes. Advertising stands to benefit from harnessing this skilled talent,” she says.

To this end Act 2 Unstereotype is adding another string to its bow. It’s new ‘Believe in Talent,’ campaign is firmly focused on driving equity for persons with disabilities behind the camera in the production industry.

It aims to do this in three ways:

  • Through an ‘Inclusive Set Commitment’ that all Unilever master productions over €100k must include at least one person with a disability working as part of the crew.
  • An open source ‘Inclusive Production Toolkit’ created in collaboration with content creators from the disabled community. The toolkit helps teams to become disability confident and offers best practices on how to provide appropriate support to persons with disabilities behind the camera.
  • A partnership with Evenbreak, an inclusive UK-based job board that matches disabled-led candidates with inclusive employers.
Make-up team preparing an actor with disabilities for his front of camera role on set

Lights, camera, action and access!

The work towards full inclusivity on set has already begun with some of Unilever’s biggest brands – among them Hellmann’s, Rexona and Pond’s – including talent from the disabled community on their production sets.

In July 2022, intern Adel Suryani, who is deaf, joined the Pond’s Passion Pictures shoot in Jakarta. “I worked on different aspects of the shoot from wardrobe checks to post-production. The crew made me feel like one of them and taught me along the way,” Adel says.

“I’d love to stay in production after this experience. My hope is this will open doors for me and my peers with disabilities to be considered for Unilever projects.”

Creating resources for the industry

Dana Cadden, Unilever’s Global Head of Advertising Production, spent over six months working with the disabled community to develop the Inclusive Production Toolkit, partnering with Bus Stop Films, a pioneering not-for-profit organisation that uses filmmaking to raise the profile of people living with disabilities.

“We wanted the toolkit to really address and provide solutions to areas that creative agencies and production companies may see as barriers to including people with disabilities on set,” she says. “After we’d finished the work, we decided to make it open source because we know others need the answers to questions we asked too.”

In conjunction with the toolkit, Unilever has also partnered with Evenbreak, who match persons with disabilities seeking opportunities with creative agencies and production companies looking for talent.

“There’s a lot of talent in the disabled community that can make our industry’s work richer and more inclusive,” Dana adds. “They’re also a demographic with spending power who are being served ads that don’t serve them. What better way to change that than to have talented creatives from the community help us makes ads that really represent?”

And that’s not the only value add.

Unstereotypical progressive advertising is bringing the business results. “It’s delivering 92% better brand power, 94% better brand difference, 67% better brand persuasion and 76% better enjoyment of ads,” Aline adds.

And as CEO of Bus Stop Films, Tracey Corbin-Matchett explains: “If you add a lens of inclusion to your production, you can change minds and lives in positive way.”

You can download your copy of the toolkit here (PDF 5.09 MB) (Opens in a pop-up window ).

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