US-based admen increasingly feature visually impaired people

NEW YORK: Admen in the US are actually performing their social responsibility duties by creating ads revolving around visually impaired people.

A Chicago Tribune report points out that recent ads created for major corporations such as Kohler, Pontiac and Crown Royal show visually impaired people in good light. The report says that several sight-impaired people are thrilled as their representation in the media has been so dismal and unrealistic for so long. Many amongst them are thankful to finally be portrayed more accurately, even if only to sell a product. This has also brought a smile to the faces of spokesmen for the visually impaired who have been urging media to include visually impaired individuals within the mainstream.

However, some ad industry observers feel that the above mentioned strategy is an attempt to push the boundaries of conventional advertising and make the product stand out. Still others defend the move by saying that creative minds were merely trying to illustrate "the exquisite sensory pleasures provided by the product" emphasising that "pleasures that go beyond the visual".

The normal mentality is to show the exact types of people advertisers are targeting; and to idealise them. This 'safe' strategy helps companies build bridges with viewers who were never subjected to anything that wasn't ideally happy, ideally beautiful, ideally perfect.

In fact, the report also adds that American Federation for the Blind presented its 2003 Access Award to the Wisconsin-based Kohler company "for cleverly offering a realistic and positive portrayal of a blind person in its television commercial," even though the winning ad did not use an actual blind actor.

The Texas-based ad agency GSD&M created the Kohler ad in sync with the company's motto - "The bold look of Kohler".

The agency's senior VP David Crawford has been quoted as saying that he would have used a blind actor, but the spot was done in a whirlwind during the last commercial actors strike. "We had to film in Canada, we had a lot of last-minute logistics to take care of. Casting a blind actor was seriously discussed" but not implemented," says Crawford.

However, Graham Button, creative director at Grey Global advertising in New York, says that when blind actor Peter Seymour auditioned for the Crown Royal commercial, "he was so obviously right, so handsome, debonair, self-assured -- and such a great actor, we would have given him the job whether he was sighted or not."

It is time that Indian creative professionals take note of these developments and create such ads too.

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