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The need to improve the portrayal of people with disabilities in the media and specifically in advertising was the focus of a breakfast briefing at the IPA on Wednesday 22 November, organised by the European Association of Communications Agencies (EACA) and the Broadcasting and Creative Industries Disability Network (BCIDN).

Peter Buchanan, Deputy Chief Executive of the COI and John Poorta, Vice Chairman of Leo Burnett London presented the background to the COI's programme "Images of Disability", Caroline Waters, Director of People & Policy at BT, and Sarah Watson, Account Planning Director at BBH presented case studies of recent campaigns for BT & Levis which have successfully incorporated people with disabilities and Maureen Walker, Head of Artists and Music Management at ITV, talked about the media experience.

The aim of the seminar was to encourage advertisers and their agencies to cast people with disabilities more frequently in commercials and to help them to understand the sensitivities involved. EACA has developed a guideline document for its agency members on the use of people with disabilities in advertising, which will be launched at the beginning of December.

Although people with disabilities account for around 15% of the population of an average Western European country, advertising's frequent emphasis on superficial bodily perfection has led to the exclusion of people with disabilities from advertising images.

Advertising has an important role to play in the portrayal of people with disabilities in the media. By including disabilities in its creative output, advertising will help society gradually come to recognise that disability is not limited to just a few people in an insubstantial minority but that it is a normal and substantial part of the society in which we live. Good disability images and well-produced advertisements are designed to promote brand loyalty and make a product more popular. Advertisers are beginning to realise that people with disabilities buy soap, milk, jewelery, use travel services, just like other consumers, representing a substantial commercial sector.

The seminar was supported by the IPA and The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA), who respectively represent the majority of agencies and advertisers in the UK.


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