Me, My Autism and I underlines how lived experiences drive creativity

The Channel 4 Diversity in Advertising Award continues to raise the bar for creativity in advertising.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


Autistic girls are three times less likely to receive a diagnosis than boys. According to new research from Vanish and Ambitious about Autism, diagnosis for a quarter of girls takes two years or longer.

This is the insight which sits at the heart of a powerful new film for Vanish, created by Havas, which has won this year’s Channel 4 Diversity in Advertising Awards.

The awards, which offer advertisers and agencies the opportunity to win £1 million of commercial airtime on Channel 4 this year tasked the industry with encouraging brands to tackle the on-going lack of authentic portrayal and representation of visible or non-visible disabilities.

It marked the first time Channel 4 revisited a theme, having first tasked brands with supercharging their efforts to improve disabled representation in 2016’s award, which was won by Malteasers and AMV BBDO. 

New Channel 4 insight revealed that only 4% of TV adverts in the UK feature disabled people, compared to 22% of the UK population who are disabled. Vanish’s winning campaign shines a light on the staggering gender gap in autism diagnoses to celebrate and support autistic girls, breaking down myths to help girls be seen as part of a broader public understanding of autism.

The campaign, which launched on World Autism Acceptance Week, and ahead of World Autism Awareness Day, is not simply about raising awareness. It includes direct financial support to Ambitious about Autism, as well as a number of disability and neurodiversity commitments from Vanish owner Reckitt.

As part of the campaign and its partnership with Ambitious about Autism, Vanish is donating 25p from every pack of Vanish Gold Range sold in UK Asda* stores between 29 March and 18 April to help the charity to help create a world where autistic girls and young people are heard, included and supported.

Vanish’s research reveals that 92% of autistic people are affected by sensory sensitivity, 73% use clothes to help regulate their senses, and 75% say keeping the look, smell and feel of clothes the same is important. Wearing familiar clothing directly affects the mood of 81% of autistic people, and an attachment to clothing was a factor that led over a third (34%) of autistic people to think they might be autistic. 

The research revealed that 98% of the autistic community think their lives would improve if the public had a better understanding of autism. 

The power of lived experience in advertising

The film follows a day in the life of 15-year-old autistic girl Ash, who was cast alongside her real family and best friends and centres on her relationship with her favourite hoodie.

An authentic and evocative portrayal of being autistic, it reflects the fact the condition can be challenging but also empowering. While showing that autistic people do experience shutdowns, it also highlights positive aspects such as stimming, which is used as a coping mechanism, and simultaneously showcases Ash’s warmth, talent, friendship and humour.

Tom Hooper, the director of the ad, believed it was important to cast an autistic girl at the centre of this film, and ideally a real family. He explained: “As a culture we’ve been going on an important journey about representation and identity. Ash’s brilliance shows the talent that you can unleash by allowing people to tell their own story.

“Ash was only diagnosed 18 months ago – the diagnosis took three years. Changing the system so that autism in girls can be understood and accepted is so important. Girls are underrepresented in the autism narrative. I hope this film in a small way helps to start to readdress that, by giving Ash and her family their voice,” adds Hooper.

Beyond raising awareness

Vanish, part of the Reckitt group, has also begun working with charity partners Ambitious about Autism and Neurodiversity in Business to build support for its neurodiverse colleagues and those that care for people with neurodiverse conditions. A new toolkit not only aims to educate on neurodiversity, but provides people with practical tools to support and feel supported in the workplace, while Reckitt has provided neurodiversity training to its employees and now offers employee volunteer days with Ambitious about Autism to continue to build an ongoing relationship.

Cigdem Kurtulus, Chief Marketing and Digital Officer at Reckitt, explained: “Our campaign aims to broaden public understanding, challenge assumptions and inspire an ongoing conversation to help autistic girls, women and all autistic people get the support they need to fulfil their potential.”

Jolanta Lasota, Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism, added: “This high-profile campaign, backed by one of the UK’s most influential broadcasters and a household brand genuinely invested in the cause, challenges harmful misconceptions and outdated stereotypes to offer a powerful, positive and authentic representation of autistic girls and their lived experiences. Girls remain three times less likely to be diagnosed with autism than boys, so this campaign, across all its various touchpoints, will be invaluable in increasing public understanding of autistic girls, who are so often overlooked by society.”