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Why brands have to take the lead on accessible advertising

Why brands have to take the lead on accessible advertising

Posted on: November 20, 2023
Bobi Carley

Head of Media and Inclusion Lead, ISBA

There are 12 million people in the UK who are deaf, have hearing loss, or suffer from tinnitus.

Four out of five 18–25-year-olds choose to use accessible features such as subtitles on TV programming, all or part of the time.

Given those statistics, you would think that all TV advertising would also be accessible to these millions of people – and yet, it’s not.

Changing this is a social and economic imperative, and it is brands who need to lead the change.

We know from our conversations with ISBA members that making advertising accessible is important to them – not least because without that accessibility, millions are missing out on ads which move, inform and entertain others.

But our members have also told us that they don’t always know how to implement the necessary changes; and, at a time when budgets are under severe pressure, they are worried about the implications.

Nevertheless, some brands are already stepping up to meet the challenge; and it was to those who ISBA first turned to understand how we could help other advertisers transform their work. This included P&G, whose stated aim is for “100% accessible advertising”.

Inspired by this ambition, and the absolute need no longer to exclude the 20% of the UK population that has a sight and/or hearing impairment, ISBA’s Inclusion Network has worked with Flock Associates to produce guidance for advertisers on how to incorporate accessibility into their advertising campaigns.

As part of the process, we learnt some surprising new things – such as the fact that including subtitles is actually relatively low cost. Also, if you ‘opt- in’ at the clearance or delivery stage, it can take less than 24 hours to implement.

We also realised that because the decision to add subtitles is often not prompted until right at the end of the production process, many advertisers weren’t even aware it was an option when they initially briefed their agencies.

So in October we launched REFRAME – an accessible advertising guide for marketers. The guide aims to encourage all advertisers to make accessibility part of the briefing process, to drive towards an Accessible AV advertising ecosystem by June 2024.

This is now available on the ISBA and Flock Associates websites, and we hope it inspires next steps for all marketers looking to make their advertising accessible to all.

The ask of brands is clear: always to consider accessible advertising from the beginning of the process as part of the briefing for both creative and media planning, so it’s no longer a last minute, unconsidered cost.

The ask of agencies is to add subtitling as another deliverable as part of their response to briefs.

Meanwhile, the ask of broadcasters and publishers is to push forward with tech development, to enable all of their platforms to play out accessible advertising.

This isn’t just a task for UK advertising, and our ambition can’t be limited to these shores. We’ll be working with the World Federation of Advertisers to spread best practice and information, in order to make accessible advertising a reality around the world.

It doesn’t just make economic sense for brands to reach that wider audience. It’s a moral and social demand to put inclusion at the heart of advertising and marketing, in the best creative tradition of our industry.

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