"Connecting Diversity, Disability, Augmented Reality and Big Data"

by Josh Loebner, Director of Strategy at Designsensory

Why is it that an industry founded on principles of differentiation and built by iconoclasts struggles so greatly with diversity and inclusion? While advertising is in the midst of an unprecedented era of technological and creative advancements from augmented reality to big data and beyond, diversity conversations often take a back burner. There are small pockets in the industry that are positively championing diversity in advertising, but editorial coverage in trade publications and major media outlets makes our industry appear considerably bigoted, racist, sexist and biased. 

Augmented reality shouldn’t just be part of the newest app where users hold up their phones to see added layers of connectivity within their surroundings. Augmented reality can metaphorically be a creative director realizing that their current reality of mostly white men on their team needs to change by adding a layer of diversity - through mentoring, internships and hiring of more diverse staff. Augmented reality can mean a web developer goes to an inner city high school and introduces a new reality of career possibilities to students that may not even know these types of jobs exist or how to break into the industry. 

Big data isn’t just about complex machine learning and algorithms crunching numbers to provide real-time marketing solutions. Big data is recognizing that more than half of the US population are women and that those women are often the primary decision-makers when it comes to brand purchases, but in our industry few women are in executive-level positions guiding advertising decisions. 

When it comes to big data and augmenting reality, people with disabilities are relatively new to diversity and inclusion conversations, but that doesn’t mean this minority group is any less significant than others. J Walter Thompson highlighted the significance of the size of the disability minority group in their 2017 Future 100 trend report sharing, “…the disabled population is much larger than many of us believe—59 million Americans. Add to this the many people caring for disabled people, and there is a huge opportunity for brands to promote empathy toward the disabled (community). As this group becomes more conscious of a shared identity, it will also become a larger market.”

Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0 is one of the leading talent engagement initiatives recognized in the industry that guides young disabled people toward careers in media, entertainment and advertising. Spearheaded by Tari Hartman Squire, CEO, EIN SOF Communications and the Loreen Arbus Foundation, Lights! Camera! Access! 2.0 recently collaborated with City University of New York, Deaf Film Camp, DisBeat, Gallaudet University, National Disability Mentoring Coalition, PolicyWorks, SIGNmation and NY Womenin Film & Television, with hosted events at CUNY, the White House, and Gallaudet University in D.C.

There are many reasons to consider employing and including people with disabilities in advertising beyond being one of the largest, and growing target audiences. Because of the significant role advertising plays within our culture, driving, not only brand purchases and affinity, but reflection of self as an individual and one’s place in society, the inclusion of disability in advertising is imperative to better educate, interpret, and accept people with disabilities as a viable part of our economy, community and culture – and reach and retain brand-loyal customers.


More information:
Diversity In Action

Last Updated: July 2017