A new study into ads that show people with physical or mental disabilities has shown creative agencies need to try harder to break society’s stigmas.
The research was conducted by the media agency UM in the UK and was part of its research into stereotyping in advertising. The study was based on the research of 2000 British people.
Although the study found that people wanted to see more people with disabilities in ads, some 62 per cent of respondents admitted that they felt “uncomfortable” when they did see it. While 43 per cent said it’s because people aren’t exposed enough to people in this community.
A further 43 per cent agreed that advertisers who did show people with disabilities risked making the ads “not appealing to people”. While 34 per cent said that people with physical disabilities are “not attractive”.
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It found that people with a mentally disability are the most likely to be negatively stereotyped (64 per cent think so, rising to 75 per cent for those with a mental health condition). Some 52 per cent said people with physical disabilities are adversely stereotyped.
Two-thirds of people with an actual disability believe society tries to “sweep them under the rug”.
A similar number of people also said that seeing more disabled people in ads helped remove stigmas, while 54 per cent wished that brands would be braver in showing “people like me” in their campaigns.
Some 71 per cent of respondents said it was important that advertisers reflected society in their campaigns.
Interestingly, 54 per cent of those surveyed wanted to see more people with disabilities in advertising campaigns.
The study also found that 40 per cent of respondents think gay/bisexual men have become more positively perceived by society over the past three years and 37 per cent saw a more positive perception of lesbian/bisexual women over the same period. Some 35 per cent have noted a better attitude towards those identifying as transgender.
Commenting on the study, Michael Brown, head of insight at UM, said: “The disabled are perhaps the final frontier for UK advertising, the last remaining major consumer group in need of a more positive approach and less stereotyping.
“Some brands have begun to use those with physical disabilities in their ads, famously Maltesers, but there is clearly far more that could be done to build a more positive perception both of those people and of those with mental health conditions.
“Of course there is still far more to be done, but many big consumer brands are making strides to avoid harmful negative stereotypes for women and the LGBTQ community in their advertising. If they can do that, and help to improve public perception on the way, surely they can do the same to paint a more positive picture of people with disabilities?” Brown said.