Channel 4 is using its annual Diversity in Advertising award to this year challenge brands to tackle the lack of authentic representation of disabled people in advertising.
The award, which has been running since 2016, is for the first time returning to a previous theme. In 2016 Maltesers won the award with a series of ads inspired by real-life stories from disabled people.
The broadcaster is challenging advertisers and creative agencies to pitch an “exceptional” campaign which features and portrays people with any kind of disability, whether visible or non-visible.
The prize for the winning brand is £1m of commercial advertising. This includes airtime on linear TV, All 4, and for the first time, Channel 4’s YouTube channel. The winner will also receive a bespoke media campaign from 4Studio, worth £100,000.
Channel 4’s ‘Mirror on the Industry’ research finds that, although representation of disabled people in advertising has improved in recent years, it still remains “incredibly low”. The research finds only 4% of TV adverts in the UK feature disabled people, dropping to 1% in lead roles, despite 22% of the UK population being disabled.
The broadcaster’s chief revenue officer Verica Djurdjevic says progress on improving disabled representation in advertising has been “too slow”.
“It’s time to supercharge our efforts, embrace the challenge and put disabled people at the heart of our campaigns,” she says.
Channel 4 says it has “led the charge” on the representation of disabled people in advertising since the launch of its London 2021 Paralympics campaign ‘Super. Human’.10 years of ‘Superhumans’: Inside Channel 4’s transformational Paralympics campaign
Last year’s award theme was ageism, which saw Tena win the £1m award with a pitch for a campaign that educates viewers about the realities of the menopause.
Other winners include Starbucks, which won in 2019 when brands were tasked with better representation of the LGBTQ+ community, and EA Sports, which won the prize in 2020 when the focus was on the authentic portrayal of UK BAME cultures. Channel 4 has awarded £6m in airtime to date.
This year, Channel 4 is also ensuring the winning campaign follows AdGreen guidelines provided by the Advertising Association, which help eliminate the negative environmental impacts of advertising production.
The broadcaster will also award £250,000 each in match-funded commercial airtime to five runners-up.
Channel 4 says its own research shows that all previous award-winning campaigns have tracked higher on brand recognition and improved brand opinion versus standard creative advertising campaigns.
The winner and runners-up of the Diversity in Advertising award will be announced in October, with the winning campaign airing on Channel 4 in early 2023.