Holland Bloorview offers a new POV on inclusion

The hospital continues its push by showing how much kids with disabilities appreciate seeing themselves in media.

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Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital is once again pushing advertisers and the media to be inclusive of people with disabilities, with a digital-first campaign that provides a first-hand point-of-view of the impact of doing so.

Once again featuring the tagline “it’s time to include disability in the picture,” the digital creative features people with disabilities and their families joyfully reacting to images and videos featuring people with disabilities, such as dancers, extreme athletes and characters in TV shows.

Ashleigh Saith, director of public engagement at the Holland Bloorview Foundation, says the message has evolved from education and awareness about stigma and disabilities back when the campaign first launched three years ago, which began with words and images aiming to break the stigma around disability but evolved into a more direct call to ad industry to be more inclusive last year. That awareness campaign featured a pledge for consumers to support brands that include people with disabilities in their advertising, which resulted in over 7,000 signatories – including approximately 20 prominent brands who pledge to create work that is representative of all Canadians themselves. The organization is continuing the push for people to sign the pledge, and using the social side of the campaign to thank the brands that have previously signed the pledge, like Reitmans and Rogers.

Saith says they more recent pivot was to have more of a social focus and secondary call to action that not only continues to highlight images of people with disabilities in the media, but motivates people to call out images that aren’t representative of the population and hold brand and media companies to account. Pulling the focus this year away from solely being directed at advertisers this time around is part of a broader strategic tweak to include the media in general in efforts to be more inclusive, as earlier iterations of the campaign were.

The decision to continue the “Dear Everybody” approach is also informed by Leger research that shows 75% of respondents believe it is important for Canadians with disabilities to be featured in public-facing media (an increase of 5% compared with 2019).

The other change this year is having more digital focus, and Saith says the creative had shorter cuts, and a more bold and colourful approach to hold people’s attention with a social-first audience in mind. An execution on Instagram includes stickers (seen below) featuring the “include everybody in the picture” messaging – so those with disabilities can show for themselves the kinds of images that should be seen in media – as well as a further call to sign the pledge.

In response to COVID, Saith says, Holland Bloorview had to change its approach to filming, but didn’t want the latest spot to have a “pandemic-specific” feel. It sent families kits and directed them over Zoom in a naturalistic way, showing scenes of kids at home reacting to videos and shows in the same way they would if there wasn’t a pandemic.

Holland Bloorview didn’t have to postpone its annual campaign, as it typically runs from August to October, and leads into the holiday fundraising period in the fall. However, it does typically include weekend activations at Eaton Centre mall to bring in new donors, so this year, the organization is hosting a virtual discussion panel focusing on representation, including one hour sessions facilitated by president and CEO Sandra Hawken.

The hospital again partnered with Forsman & Bodenfors for the creative, with assistance from HeydSaffer, Outsider Editorial and Toast & Jam.