Light green background image with purple graphic circles and headshots of Josh Loebner and Adjuba Willoughby

Advocating for inclusive design

The role of self-identification and technology in creating an increasingly inclusive future

Josh Loebner (JL), Global Head of Inclusive Design at Wunderman Thompson, and Adjuba Willoughby (AW), Talent Acquisition Coordinator at WPP, discuss WPP’s industry-leading inclusive design approach, innovative client work driving positive change and the role of technology in creating an increasingly inclusive future.

AW: Do you think there's been a shift in how brands are taking a stance on inclusion? And what do you think is driving this?

JL: What's driving it is more visibility of disability. Whether it's politicians, other civic leaders or individuals that are employees at agencies, self-identification is critical to more visibility and more momentum in this space. Brands and agencies are recognising that this is not a small group, but over a billion people.

Whether it's politicians, other civic leaders or individuals that are employees at agencies, self-identification is critical to more visibility and more momentum in this space.

We're seeing more diversity and disability inclusion being woven into client projects, regardless of the initiative. Representation is seen in an increasing variety of places and spaces that it hadn't been seen previously. Self-identification is important, but we're also seeing training to help people be allies in this space, regardless of their role. More inclusion is being built-in into processes so that there are more regular, repeated, dynamic and measured ways that accessibility and inclusion is introduced into advertising and marketing.

MouthPad^, our work for Augmental which won the Grand Prix Innovation Award at Cannes Lions, is a phenomenal example which highlights, from a creative perspective, the powerful role technology can play in helping tackle the challenges people living with disabilities face.

AW: And how do you think technology is helping things to be more accessible beyond that piece of work?

JL: Technology is helping things be more accessible in a huge way. Whether it's Web 3.0, apps or ecommerce, disability has matured within the creativity, advertising and marketing function. Where initially it was simply seen as representation on screen in an advert, we're starting to see it considered further down the marketing funnel, particularly from a tech perspective. People with needs associated with disabilities are being woven into processes to make sure ecommerce is accessible, and to make sure social media is accessible too.

AW: And do you feel it's become easier to pitch ideas to clients which have inclusive design and accessibility at their heart?

JL: In years past, we had people who were passionate on both sides – on the agency side and on the client side. The challenge with that passion was that it lacked titles and roles, and it lacked responsibilities. The title of Global Head of Inclusive Design was not around five years ago. Now we have people who are torch-bearers for inclusive design and accessibility, and that allows us to be not only passionate but the point of contact for pitches, be included in projects, be included in campaign launches, and be a narrative thread during engagement with a client.

Wunderman Thompson, under WPP, welcomes inclusion, equity, diversity, accessibility and sustainability like no other company. WPP saw early on the value of bringing all this together and moving it forward, not only within WPP’s agencies but also across the industry.

Wunderman Thompson, under the umbrella of WPP, welcomes inclusion, equity, diversity, accessibility and sustainability like no other company. WPP saw early on the value of bringing all this together and moving it forward, not only within WPP’s agencies but also across the industry.

Wunderman Thompson was the first agency – just a few years ago – to raise a flag for accessibility and disability representation through the Inclusive Experience Practice. But now we're seeing others, particularly within the WPP family, doing the same. We have Mindshare with Rachel Lowenstein as the Global Head of Inclusive Innovation, and Martyn Sibley at Purple Goat. Both of them identify not only as being disabled, but as allies and leaders in this space.

AW: What advice do you have for our clients looking to create inclusive experiences?

JL: Sometimes, for brands, it may seem like an insurmountable task when it comes to inclusive design and accessibility. The key is to bring people with disabilities into the conversations and commitments throughout the creative process. Whether it's someone who's called Global Head of Inclusive Design, somebody from an employee resource group who identifies as disabled, or co-creators within disability communities, bring them into the process early on so that things don't appear to be bolted on or disingenuous.

published on

27 September 2023

Category

Experience

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