The Lack Of Visibility Of Disability In Indian Advertisements


BY -Mr. Sahil Chopra, Founder & CEO- iCubesWire

Initially, advertisements were brought to life solely to communicate information and make the audience aware of the product offering. With time it undeniably rolled out as a prospective marketing opportunity for brands to achieve higher ROIs. However, it soon transformed into a lucrative trap to attract the masses while keeping the critical focus on their respective target
audiences. The science behind TVCs is empirical due to the years of experimentation and processing; brands have cracked the code to instill feelings through pixels in the minds of their customers.

It’s almost magical to witness how effective advertisements are today. Now advertisements focus on emotions to generate a sense of relatability wit the target audience. Still, with inherent development in human psychology and the subjugated societal norms, advertisements have seen a change repeatedly.

India is the second most populated country in the world, with a diverse culture like none other. Around 2.21% of the total population in India accounts for disabled people. However, less than one percent of ads in India include the representation of disability.

The absence of equal representation has led to creating a social stigma to the idea of disability wherein brands rarely show disabled people as working individuals with parenting duties, household chores, or the usual indulgence in leisure activities. A study recently suggested that disabilities in advertising are often focused on products that only treat disabilities. For example, ads about Hospital chains, harmaceuticals, treatments devices, or medical equipment are the only categories that cut the majority representation of the disabled.

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This poor show needs a major turnaround, as we need brands that strike a heartfelt chord of empathy without overdramatizing or emotionally manipulating the audience about what disability is like. Since brands are making a conscious effort to spread social messages (for profits or change), advertisements that apply underlying social messages have led to ads.

Sometimes, brands try to highlight social messages that are progressive and have no relevance to their product. However, those ads are ahead of their time as they only wish to shed light on the social issue at hand. Some brands have taken their stand by releasing ads that propagate inclusivity and empathy toward the disabled. For example, KFC’s campaign: Bucket of
Friendship, had a refreshing take on disability with sign language between two friends to denote how it makes their friendship even more unique.

JK Cement’s digital campaign ‘Yeh Yaarana Pucca Hai’ delivered a bold message to highlight the need to facilitate infrastructure suited for differently-abled children in schools. Such representation often breaks the so-called reinforced stereotypes people
with disabilities are often addressed with. It portrays their lives in a more realistic color that is relatively normal to what we perceive.

In the recent Tokyo Paralympics, Indian athletes created history by winning 19 medals. These athletes are now prospective ambassadors who have broken social stigmas and risen above the occasion due to social media trends and coverage.

Brands can use these athletes as ambassadors to address social issues surrounding disability. With the introduction of such new advancements, we can hopefully see a diverse portfolio and representation of disabled people from all walks of life. Their representation will no longer be seen as a niche but with utmost normalcy.

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These ads will connect with the audience in the most realistic sense without creating barriers or stereotypes against any category.