#WeThe15 brings the humanity to disability

Why the International Paralympic Committee and adam&eveDDB are launching #WeThe15, the world’s biggest inclusivity movement for people with disabilities.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


People with disabilities make up 15% of the world’s population; yet in advertising, they remain entirely invisible; or else exceptional; the ‘superhero’ stereotype of the iconic Channel 4 Paralympic Games adcertising. 

It is a truth and a stereotype that adam&eveDDB are taking on with the landmark #WeThe15 campaign to support the International Paralympic Committee. A long-term investment that the team describe as the world’s biggest inclusivity movement for people with disabilities.

The film, created by Pulse Films and directed by Sam Pilling, sets out to shift the narrative around people with disabilities away from one in which they are either stereotyped as objects of pity, or put on a pedestal as ‘superhuman’, in order to emphasise that disability is not an “other” - it is humanity.

Smashing the stereotypes surrounding disability

The campaign film opens with real quotes that show the way people with disabilities are framed by even the comments of well-meaning people. Before a cast of people with disabilities challenge viewers to recognise them not through those stereotypes, but as ordinary people who demand and deserve true inclusion. Inclusion based on who they are; not what they can achieve. 

Filmed in Bogota, Bangkok, London, Johannesburg, Milan and Manila, the film features nearly 40 persons with disabilities assembled in partnership with disabled talent agency and consultancy C Talent.

Craig Spence, Chief Brand and Communications Officer at the International Paralympic Committee, explained: “At the IPC we believe that Change Starts with Sport and through #WeThe15 we want to change the lives of the world’s 1.2 billion persons with disabilities.

“By partnering with multiple international organisations to launch #WeThe15 ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games we want to use the platform of the world’s third biggest sport event to spark a decade-long transformation for the world’s largest marginalised group.”

From ‘superhuman’ to human

The campaign marks a significant shift for the games. The Paralympics have become synonymous with the ‘superhuman’ athlete, while this campaign focuses on humanity as opposed to achievement. 

Instead of a campaign highlighting the incredible accomplishments of the few, we instead have a campaign that is setting out to become the world’s biggest ever human rights movement for the world’s 1.2 billion persons with disabilities.

For these 1.2 billion people, access to basic human rights such as healthcare, education and employment, are at best limited and at worst non-existent, making it harder for people with disabilities to live, work, thrive or even survive.  

The pandemic has underlined that many of the barriers that disabled people faced in the workplace were entirely imagined; because they did not have to enter that workplace in the first place; they could work from home. Yet, just 52.3% of disabled people are in employment in the UK in October. A lived reality that is not always reflected in media or advertising more broadly. 

A coalition for change

Spearheaded by the IPC and International Disability Alliance, #WeThe15 sees the largest-ever coalition of organisations unite behind this cause – 20 in total, including UN Human Rights, UNESCO, Special Olympics, and The Valuable 500 - with the goal of putting people with disabilities at the heart of the inclusivity agenda.

To support the launch 125 landmarks across 6 continents around the world will light up in purple, the campaign colour, including the Empire State Building, the London Eye, the Colosseum, Niagara Falls and the world’s tallest tower, Skytree in Tokyo. While brand partners will transform their logos, campaigns and social platforms to become 15% purple. Brands, including Allianz, Coca Cola, Facebook, Twitter, Intel, BP and Visa ate supporting the campaign. 

The launch film will play out to 250m people during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and Paralympians will sport the campaign’s symbol as temporary tattoos.

Mat Goff, CEO at adam&eveDDB, added: “WeThe15 gives a voice to the biggest unheard group in the Inclusion agenda. This Tokyo 2020 launch campaign is just the start of a movement that will drive real change for over a billion people worldwide. The more brands and organisations and people that get involved in this movement, the louder that voice will be and the faster the change will come.”



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