Mars ’embraces diversity’ with campaign aimed at overcoming disability taboos

Mars Chocolate UK is launching a series of adverts for its Maltesers brand that champion diversity and disability after winning Channel 4’s £1m Superhumans Wanted competition, as it looks to break down the taboo surrounding disability.

Mars is launching three ads with disability and diversity at their heart after winning Channel 4’s Superhumans Wanted competition, with Mars Chocolate UK’s vice-president of marketing Michele Oliver admitting the company previously “did not fully represent the diversity of the consumers who buy and enjoy its brands”.

The new ads, which were created by Mars Chocolate and AMV BBDO, will be broadcast for the first time on Channel 4 during the 2016 Paralympics Games Opening Ceremony tomorrow evening (7 September).

The advertisements fit in with Maltesers’ ‘Look on the Light Side’ series and were developed in response to Channel 4’s Superhumans Wanted competition, which sought to encourage advertisers to feature disability in their ads. Beating 90 other brands, Mars Chocolate UK and AMV BBDO won £1m of the broadcaster’s commercial airtime for its creative idea.

Maltesers’ three ads are inspired by real-life stories from disabled people, and aim to celebrate awkward situations from embarrassing moments with new boyfriends to behaving badly at a wedding. Through the ads, Maltesers hopes to prove that humour can be a powerful force for positive change in overcoming taboos and breaking down barriers surrounding disability.

“In terms of why we hadn’t featured disability in our ads before, the honest answer is that we had not sufficiently thought about it,” admitted Oliver.

“There was an unconscious acceptance [of the status quo]. This is not just true of Mars but the rest of the industry. We now want to take some steps forward.”

Michele Oliver, vice-president of marketing, Mars Chocolate UK

Figures by disability charity Scope reveal that 80% of disabled people feel underrepresented by TV and the media. Oliver believes now is the time for marketers to come together and “change the face of communications”.

She added: “This is not a competitive play, as we believe the whole industry needs to embrace diversity. Unilever is particularly strong. At Mars, we want to issue a rallying cry and look at how we can change the face of communications so that we represent the British population in all its diversity.”

Changing its casting

Mars says this series of ads is “just the first step of its journey” to champion diversity, as it is now looking to change the way it casts people in its advertisements.

“We now have a different casting brief that we give to our agencies. We want to widen the doors and encourage all diversity, whether that’s ethnicity, disability or any other aspect. We need to bring in a lot more diversity when it comes to the way we represent family advertising.”

One benefit of Mars’ new approach that Oliver did not anticipate was the “increased creativity” that it unlocked. However, she insists that the company does not want to treat diversity as a “tokenism”.

“We want to look at how we can put a diversity lens on our advertising ideas, but only where appropriate. It isn’t a tokenism and it has to make sense. Ultimately, we want to make ads that are memorable and that the public can connect with,” she explained.

“Successful ads are entertaining, talked about and help us sell more Maltesers. If all those things happen [with our three ads], we will continue to use them beyond the Paralympics.”


To find out more about brand and creative and diversity, visit the Festival of Marketing, which is running on the 5 and 6 October at Tobacco Dock, London. For more information about the event, including how to book tickets, click here.

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