An Inclusive Multi-Media Campaign

Victoria Brackett, Chief Commercial Officer at Irwin Mitchell discusses disability representation and their most inclusive ad campaign to date.

Disabilities affect 22% of people in the UK, yet disabled people are still grossly under-represented both on and off-screen. Working with disabled clients, we are all too aware of the discrimination they can face daily. In response to this, we set out to develop a campaign with the most inclusive production team in the hopes of highlighting the importance of disability representation and encouraging other companies to become more inclusive in their recruitment.

As part of a wider commitment to become a more inclusive employer ourselves, our team at Irwin Mitchell launched The Human Touch – a campaign which features real clients, sharing personal stories and highlighting the impact of case outcomes. Keen to show the wealth of skills and creativity from disabled talent, the full production team was made up of 60% disabled people in senior roles. This is in stark contrast to the 9% that make up the creative industry currently.

We wanted to ensure inclusivity was at the heart of the campaign, with an opportunity not just to reflect inclusion on screen, but to also ensure that the production team was as inclusive as possible. The campaign featured TV, photography, and a suite of film, highlighting the behind-the-camera talent.

Oscar Carris directed the commercials, whilst the photography was shot by a blind photographer, Ian Treherne, under the mentorship of Rankin. Ian said of the experience: 

“This was everything that I’d been working towards for the last ten years... This is the first time that I’ve felt like I was able to participate in a world that does include me.”

Musician Derek Paravicin who is blind and autistic, was on piano. The make-up was by artist Bryanna Angel Ryder who has lupus and partial hearing. Bryanna said of the project: 

“It is so unique. It’s embracing people with disabilities, how people think about disabilities, how people now learn from people with disabilities and how to treat people in the future, with disabilities.”

The behind-the-scenes film, captured by wheelchair-using director Owen Tooth, gives insight into the full production and people involved. Speaking candidly about his experience after becoming a wheelchair user, it’s clear to see the challenges people with disabilities face: 

“When I first became a wheelchair user, I got dropped by every single client that I’d built up after 15 years of working in the industry, apart from one. And that made for a very, very hard few years… It’s so rare being on a shoot that is this inclusive... They’ve decided to make sure that the pre-production, the production, and the post-production is inclusive for people with physical disabilities and for people who are neurodivergent.”

Our recruitment process involved speaking to the British Film Institute (BFI), which has a disability screen advisory group, and with Channel 4, whose Paralympic films have been multi-award winning. The agency, Merkle, also researched Facebook groups for differently abled creatives and specialist talent agencies.

Ultimately, we hope that our inclusive approach to producing this campaign will change public perceptions within the broadcast industry. As well as using real clients, not actors, we’ve assembled a behind-the-camera team made up of people who are often overlooked: those with disabilities, both hidden and visible. It's about giving opportunities to talented individuals, who don’t always receive the opportunities they deserve. 

We have an aim to be a leading responsible business and that involves improving our own sustainability and inclusion. We’ve taken the opportunity to step back and review our commitment to inclusion and disability accessibility, as part of this process. It’s only by taking action that we will be able to influence changes both within our organisation and the wider world.

Working alongside global marketing agency Merkle B2B, creative studio Annex and their director Oscar Cariss, brought the project to life, along with renowned photographer and filmmaker, Rankin. Jason Fletcher, executive creative director, Merkle B2B, comments: 

“We are privileged to have worked on this campaign, which I have to say, has to have been one of the best experiences of my career. Meeting some of the clients and sharing some of the personal stories was so inspirational.

“Then, to have discovered such brilliant people to work within our truly diverse team, really makes the campaign a success, before it even airs. We partnered with them across our whole production including directing, photography, sound, hair and make-up, voiceover, music and editing.

“What we are really hoping for is that this inspires other creative agencies and production companies to use more disabled talent, an area that the industry has been lagging behind on for many years. This campaign is testament to the fact that differences of perspective only add richness to creative concepts, seeing Ian at work with Rankin was truly incredible. Hopefully this can drive change and open up more opportunities for a community that is often discriminated against.”

Read more about the The Human Touch campaign at:

The publisher is Citizen Network Research. An Inclusive Multi-Media Campaign © Victoria Brackett 2022.

Article | 07.03.22

disability, faith & creativity, Inclusion, England, Article

Also see