How to Implement Accessibility and Inclusivity in Advertising (+Why It Matters)
Even with all of the ad targeting and technology we have, advertising still often misses the mark for accessibility and inclusivity. Certain demographics are often misrepresented (or not represented at all), and some ads can’t even be enjoyed by the audiences that were intended to see them.
It's for this reason that from the start of your campaign conceptualizing, you need to be thinking about accessibility and inclusivity. These aren't attributes that are simply added in after the campaign has already been concepted and designed. These are two critical elements of the campaign that will determine the campaign's overall success and how it reaches and resonates with those who experience it.
However, despite the importance of both accessibility and inclusivity, many ad strategists simply don’t address either in their campaigns. This may be due to a lack of knowledge of how they can create better campaigns that can be appreciated by all. In this post, I will:
- Define accessibility and inclusivity as it relates to advertising.
- Highlight why accessibility and inclusivity are key components of your ad campaigns.
- Outline a few strategies to help ensure that you address both in your campaign creation process.
Before we dive in, let’s take a look at what exactly is accessibility and inclusivity as they pertain to advertising.
What is accessibility and inclusivity in advertising?
Accessibility and inclusivity typically come together as one, but they are still two different entities. So we need to carefully define each term before we begin addressing how each impacts your campaigns. Failure to understand each one individually will result in a lack of awareness and an inaccurate implementation of each attribute in your campaigns.
Understanding accessibility in advertising
Accessibility in advertising addresses the campaigns’ ability to be experienced by those with physical or cognitive impairments. Campaigns should not discriminate against those who can’t see or hear or have another limitations that prevent them from experiencing the advertisement altogether.
Over 22% of people in the United States and 15% worldwide live with a disability. Without accommodations built into your campaigns, you won’t reach this population and your brand may also come off as insensitive. It’s up to ad strategists and their teams to ensure they are addressing the areas in which the ad could fall short with those who may need additional support and assistance.
However, this is often easier said than done. A lack of accessibility in a specific campaign is often a foundational design flaw from the early days of campaign concepting. Advertisers need to consider how the ad will be interpreted (both viewed and heard) by those with disabilities and make proper adjustments to accommodate everyone.
For example, brands are using both subtitles and narration in their ads across multiple mediums to ensure that their content can be experienced by those who are deaf or blind.
This is just a start for making your advertisements more accessible, but it is the right mindset to have when you’re thinking about how your campaign will be experienced.
Much like accessibility, advertisers still need to work to make their campaigns more inclusive too.
Understanding inclusivity in advertising
Inclusive ad campaigns take into account people of all different genders, races and backgrounds and ensure that multiple perspectives are represented. It's often considered as one step further than diversity.
For far too long, many genders and backgrounds have been underrepresented in advertisements. Unrealistic standards of beauty and limited representation of minorities in ads over the years has caused advertisers to take another look at who they are putting in their ads and how they are portrayed.
Body-positive, minority-led and non-stereotypical campaigns have now become the norm. For example, the clothing brand Aerie launched their #AerieREAL campaign, portraying real, authentic girls who are making a difference in the world. This campaign showcases girls of all backgrounds who may normally not feel represented in national, global campaigns.
By making your campaigns more inclusive, you can help more people to hear and see the things many of us take for granted, and empower them to obtain perspectives and knowledge they might not have otherwise been able to obtain. Keeping accessibility and inclusivity at the forefront of our campaigns also opens our own minds up to new perspectives and knowledge.
The need for accessibility and inclusivity in advertising
Accessible, inclusive advertisements aren’t something you do once and check off your list. Your company needs to adopt a mindset of accessibility and inclusivity. These attributes should be woven into all aspects of your marketing for a variety of reasons:
1. It extends your ads’ reach and relevance.
Accessible, inclusive ads can be experienced by more people. In addition, they’ll resonate with more people as well. Without them, you’ll risk stifling your campaign’s reach and relevance. What if a large portion of your Facebook ad targeting was deaf and your video advertisement only had a narration?
Or what if the cast featured in your campaign all had the same background, alienating a group of people that didn’t feel like your product was intended for them too?
Even with precise targeting, a lack of accessibility and inclusivity in your ads can be a critical error for your campaign. You’ll miss out on potential customers that may have sought after your product if those attributes were taken into account.
Overall, these two campaign attributes will make for more successful and impactful ads.
2. There may be legal ramifications
The law on ADA accessibility as it pertains to advertisements and marketing assets is complicated. Over the past few decades, guidelines and resolutions have been passed to ensure businesses take proper steps to make their websites and advertisements accessible to all.
However, the courts have had difficulty enforcing some of these laws due to different interpretations and the need for additional explanation. Nonetheless, it’s something that needs to be addressed in all aspects of your marketing efforts. Failure to do so could result in a lawsuit for your company.
Despite the murky laws, website accessibility lawsuits have been steadily rising over the past few years. Over 10,165 cases were reported in 2018.
To ensure your company is in the clear, make the necessary adaptations to your website and keep accessibility in mind when you are designing campaigns.
3. It’s simply the right thing to do
We’ve covered strategic reasons and legal reasons. Now it’s time to highlight the moral reason.
Businesses don’t need to have an altruistic mission to simply know what the right thing is to do. Their message and marketing should be inviting to all people, regardless of their abilities and backgrounds. Everyone deserves to be able to decipher an ad that is being served to them.
How to improving accessibility and inclusivity in your advertising
It's clear that businesses need to be proactive with making sure their campaigns bring in more people and do not leave anyone behind. Fortunately, the adjustments needed in order to make an ad more accessible and inclusive are minor, and their impact is profound—such campaigns will pay off for your company in the long run and enable more people to appreciate your work.
But what is the best way to accomplish that? To help you improve the accessibility and inclusivity of your advertisements, I've outlined four tips below:
1. Test ads in randomized focus groups to eliminate biases
Sometimes you’re too close to a project and don’t see what others see. Take a step back and review your work with your peers. Gather feedback and outside perspectives. This will make your campaign stronger and more effective.
One essential way to uncover personal biases and ensure you are making your advertisements as accessible and diverse as possible is to hold a focus group.
In the focus group, you can gather a multitude of different perspectives that will share whether or not your advertisement addresses both of those attributes. You’ll learn from new perspectives and see how your ad will be interpreted and viewed by consumers.
No matter how cautious you are, sometimes subconscious biases will slip into your work. Getting feedback from multiple data sources including focus groups will result in a campaign that addresses all the areas you need to consider.
2. Redesign your website with accessibility in mind
When you think of an advertisement, you likely envision the creative.
However, your advertising campaign doesn’t just stop with the ad creative and implementation. You need to ensure that the content in your entire funnel is accessible and inclusive.
This includes your website. Most websites likely need an overhaul to become more ADA-friendly and ensure they are both accessible and inclusive.Some common ways to make your website more accessible include:
- Ensuring your text color and background have contrast for those who are colorblind.
- Including alt text for your images for those who are blind.
- Adding auditory cues and site readers for those who are deaf.
It might take time to re-imagine your site with all of these new functions and design elements, but it is essential. These changes can make a significant difference in the way people perceive your content.
For example, this site for Dev Art could use a bit more contrast between the text color and its gray background. It is a little difficult to read in its current state and might be challenging for someone who is colorblind.
By making your website more accessible, you will ensure that no one who encounters your ad isn't able to complete the call to action on your site due to a disability.
3. Add narration and subtitles to digital ads
Narration and subtitles are two small adjustments to the digital ads you might be running on popular sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. By including both of these elements in your ads, you make it easy for those with audio or visual impairments to still experience the advertisement.
Thankfully, it is simple to add narration or subtitles to a digital ad. You can easily record a voiceover and have it run in the background of a video ad. For subtitles, Facebook added a new caption feature to add captions to your videos in just a few clicks. You can also preview and review the captions that are auto-generated for videos prior to publishing. After your review, you can click “Save to Video” and they will be added to the content.
With these slight campaign adjustments, you’ll reach more people than you would without them.
Do you have a proactive accessibility and inclusivity strategy?
Even if you understand the importance of accessibility and inclusivity, you need to ensure you’re always working to actively integrate them into all aspects of your marketing. These are two essential components of a successful advertising campaign. With them, you’ll reach more people, avoid legal ramifications, and stay on the right side of history. To ensure your campaigns are more accessible and inclusive, make it a point to:
- Hold focus groups to eliminate biases.
- Design your website to accommodate impairments.
- Add narration and subtitles to your advertisements.
These strategic changes will position your campaign for success while ensuring that everyone who is served the advertisement gets a fair shot to enjoy it on their own terms.
About the author
Joanne Camarce is a digital marketing expert specializing in SEO, ecommerce, and social media. She loves meeting new people and embraces challenges. When she's not wearing her marketing hat, you'll find Joanne fine-tuning her art and music skills.