Campaign Watch: Mars Makes TV History With Maltesers Spots

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Maltesers UK advert

Channel 4 in the UK is making history by broadcasting the first entirely-in-sign-language spot in British TV history.

According to Business Insider, the airtime is result of a unique contest by Channel 4, in which Mars Chocolate UK secured “£1 million ($1.3 million) of free advertising airtime from Channel 4 with a Maltesers campaign championing diversity and disability for the Paralympics.”

Maltesers, the Mars-owned chocolate brand, celebrates diversity by featuring people with disabilities telling funny stories about their lives. The campaign debuts during the opening ceremony of the Paralympics on British television on Sept. 7.

The ads are a response to Channel 4’s “Superhumans Wanted,” a competition held by the Paralympic broadcaster that includes its groundbreaking “We’re the Superhumans” campaign for the Paralympics (above).

Mars Chocolate UK and creative agency AMV BBDO won by developing a “bold, creative idea which puts disability and diversity at the heart of their campaign.” The boldest of the spots in terms of challenging viewers features a conversation in sign language that will air, at first, without subtitles. In the spot, a deaf woman explains how a friend’s dog knocked out her hearing aid.

All three spots are based on real-life stories from disabled people. Another spot concerns a woman in a wheelchair who ran over another guest’s foot at a wedding. In the third, a disabled woman laughs with a friend about an embarrassing moment with her new boyfriend.

Cat Collins, strategy partner at AMV BBDO, explained in a statement: “Rather than creating distance by putting disabled people on a pedestal, we believed we could achieve more by showing disabled people simply as … people. For Maltesers, that meant seeking out the hilarious stories from their lives that they look on the light side of, just as the characters in the rest of our campaign do. It meant using a powerful weapon to break down discomfort, division and prejudice — a good laugh.”

Jonathan Allan, sales director at Channel 4, added: “The calibre of competition entries demonstrated that the U.K. ad industry can be world-leading in improving representation of disability in advertising. We hope that Mars Chocolate and AMV’s bold ambition for these cheeky ads using Maltesers signature format which TV viewers already love, will create a legacy for our Superhumans Wanted initiative, and alongside our latest Paralympics ad, encourage more brands and agencies to approach and cast their campaigns in new ways to make richly diverse ads the norm rather than the exception.”

Michele Oliver, vice president of marketing at Mars Chocolate UK, said: “As one of the UK’s biggest advertisers, we have a responsibility and a role to play in reflecting diversity in everyday media. This is a first step for us.”

Find out more in the full press release below:

12.9 million people, one fifth of the population, in the UK are disabled yet their representation in advertising is still very limited.

As part of Channel 4’s Year of Disability, the broadcaster’s £1m “Superhumans Wanted” competition winners Mars Chocolate UK worked with AMV BBDO to create new adverts for MALTESERS®, inspired by real ‘lighter side of-life’ experiences told by people living with a disability.

The adverts will air for first time on Channel 4 during the Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony on 7th September

Working in partnership with disability charity Scope, Mars Chocolate UK is launching three new MALTESERS® adverts in its latest campaign, focusing specifically on the lighter moments in the lives of those living with a disability.

The adverts, created in response to a ground- breaking Channel 4 initiative which gave away £1m of its commercial air time to help improve representation of disability in TV advertising will air during the Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony on Channel 4 on Wednesday 7th September from 9pm.

Research from Scope, which has partnered with Mars Chocolate on the development and production of the adverts, highlights the need for fairer representation in the media of the fifth of the population in the UK who are disabled. Scope found that:
• 80 per cent of disabled people feel underrepresented by TV and the media
• Nearly two-thirds of disabled people (61 per cent)2 believe that more visible disabled people in the media would improve attitudes to disability
• Over half of disabled people in the UK (62 per cent) say they are treated differently because they are disabled and this rises to a staggering 76 per cent of young disabled people (18-34 year olds)

Two-thirds of Brits (67 per cent) admit they feel awkward around disabled people4
Inspired by real-life stories, the adverts follow the familiar MALTESERS® creative concept of friends sharing embarrassing moments, from new boyfriends to behaving badly at a wedding – where the best thing to do is simply ‘look on the light side.’

Michele Oliver, VP of Marketing at Mars Chocolate UK stated: “As one of the UK’s biggest advertisers, we have a responsibility and a role to play in reflecting diversity in everyday media. This is a first step for us, and with a fifth of the UK population living with a disability, and the nation focused on this great sporting event, this is the right time to join the conversation.”

“Mars is passionate about using the power of our brands for good and, thanks to the support of Channel 4, we’re proud to be starting our journey to reflect more of the glorious diversity of the Great British public through richer, more inclusive and inspiring advertising. And we hope this is just the start.”

Lisa Quinlan-Rahman director of external affairs at disability charity Scope, said: “We know comedy is a great way to shine a light on the awkwardness that many people feel about disability. We hope MALTESERS®’ use of humour in these adverts will get people thinking differently about disability and help break down the barriers that many disabled people face. But life isn’t always full of laughs and we’ve worked very closely with Mars to ensure the adverts reflect the experiences of disabled people. Disabled people come from an incredibly diverse array of backgrounds. They rarely see their lives reflected in marketing campaigns, the media, in advertising and in public culture.

“We hope this step by Mars is the first of many. The purple pound is worth over £200 billion a year, and we’d like to see more companies recognising the spending power of disabled consumers.”

Emily Yates, presenter and disability advocate said: “Disability is a subject that is often dealt with in a really serious manner, which of course is sometimes needed. For those of us with disabilities though, it is important to see the light side of our impairments and many of us have hilariously awkward and unpredictable stories to tell that have often got us noticed for all the wrong reasons!

“Disability needs to be normalised, understood and accepted and campaigns like the one Maltesers has created are dong a fantastic job of making sure perspectives are changing.”

The ads were created after the MALTESERS® brand won a highly sought-after advertising slot during the Paralympic Games’ Opening Ceremony in a competition linked to Channel 4’s ‘Year of Disability’ and Superhumans Wanted initiative. The competition was designed to encourage brands and agencies to feature disability in their ad campaigns.

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