Thanks for reading The Nonlinear Life, a newsletter about navigating life's ups and downs. Every Monday we talk about Words4Life—popular sayings, mottos, buzzwords, table topics. Also, dad jokes! Every Thursday we focus on life transitions, how to turn this period of uncertainty and stress into one of growth and renewal.
Normally Madison Avenue is taking from us this time of year. They bombard us with ads to encourage us to spend money with their brands. But this year, a welcome new trend has the advertising industry—and the brands that pay their bills—giving us something long overdue: greater representation in mainstream advertising.
I want to celebrate one particular trend: ads that celebrate diversity.
The average consumer sees 10,000 ads a day. Younger consumers, Deloitte had found, notice representation in ads and base their purchases in part on who and what they see.
A Cambridge University study showed that audiences relate to marketing when it reflects their shared traits, including skin color, size, and age. “It’s not necessarily enough to show one component which is similar,” the head researcher, Ben Barry, said. “People really wanted to see someone who represents them in all three factors.”
As Kyla Jones, U.S. diversity strategist at the Rapp agency, told Restaurant Drive, "Brands are really starting to respond to that expectation that consumers have, which is if you're going to ask for me to belong in this brand if you're looking for wallet-share in my purse, then I need for you as a brand to not only represent me in your efforts but also recognize my individuality and how I want to show up, engage and spend money with your brand.”
But as great as these have been, one community has been conspicuously absent: those with visible disabilities.
The CDC says that 61 million American adults live with a disability—that’s one in four of us. Thirteen percent of us can’t climb stairs, 11 percent have cognitive challenges, 6 percent are deaf.
That’s what makes this year’s crop of holiday ads so heartening. Through storytelling that’s both direct, as the case of Home Depot Foundation, and indirect, in the case of Amazon, brands are showing that the nearly three million Americans who rely on wheeled mobility, including my father until his death earlier this fall, also celebrate the holidays—and also make meaningful purchases.
Here are three of this year’s banner crop of ads highlighting the many ways that Americans move around. May next year’s crop be even bigger.
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