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An Ad agency with a difference…

August 1, 2017

Eight young adults with learning difficulties came together to form an advertising agency, giving them the opportunity to harness their creativity and give them a stronger voice. With a range of disabilities and skills the team were supported by Ceridwen Hughes, photographer and founder of Same but Different and Tim Harriss a designer with many years experience.

“The idea came about during an earlier project called ‘We can…’ which is a photographic project I created for Same but Different” explained Ceridwen. “We recognised that many of the people who took part, and had learning difficulties, had this wonderful creativity that is often not harnessed. They all said they wanted to work but recognised finding an employer who accommodated their differences would be difficult. It started us thinking about ways we could demonstrate what they were capable of whilst also giving them a stronger voice in an industry that often patronises those with disabilities.”

The agency’s aim is to truly reflect a modern and diverse population that is often overlooked or at best patronised by many of the country’s advertising agencies. A study from Lloyds Banking Group in December 2016 found that only 19% of people featured in advertising are from minority groups, and of that 19% only 0.06% of people portrayed are disabled in adverts created by Top 20 advertisers were registered disabled. Considering there are over 11 million people in the UK with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability those figures are a sad reflection on awareness in general of disability.

Students on the Independent Living Course at Coleg Cambria were invited to apply to be part of the Agency and following a selection process eight young adults with a range of learning disabilities were invited to join. The team were thrown into the deep end and had a steep learning curve to climb as none had any experience of the creative industries or in fact had any type of job before.

“Our very first day involved a conference call with Special Olympics GB. We had contacted them previously asking if they would like to see what our creative team could produce to demonstrate their capabilities” explained Ceridwen. “From the outset it was made clear to the team that they were expected to work hard. Because of the nature of their disabilities we had to make allowances for their needs by giving them more time to process information but they were very much working to a deadline. We were completely amazed by their creativity and they worked incredibly well as a team, often supporting one another if it was needed. To be honest I think we probably learned as much about ourselves as they did.  It really shows you should never underestimate someone’s abilities.”

What started out as a unique and innovative idea gave the participants much more than just work experience.  It gave them hope, confidence and a way to demonstrate that given the right support they could achieve far more than anyone expected.

“What I loved was the fact that we all were encouraged to take part.  Some of the team need a bit more time and they were given that time. No-one gave up on them at all and even when they struggled they were supported and it meant so much to us all.” Said Naomi who took part in the Same but Different Agency. “We really have loved taking part and it has given us so much confidence.  It has been great fun.”

The team in the Same but Different Agency were responsible for everything from creating the initial creative concepts, copywriting, art direction, photography all the way through to the end design.

The creative idea

“We came up with the idea of a cage because it represents the way people with disabilities often feel trapped because of their condition or the way people treat them. Rather than use a bird, which would be obvious, we used butterflies because each one is different and even though they look fragile they are actually really strong. Even if their wings look damaged they can still fly. There is one butterfly in colour and that is the one that is showing the others which way is to freedom. Our design has lots of layers to it and we really did not want to come up with an obvious advert. We hope people like it and like the fact that just because we have a disability does not mean we cannot speak for ourselves.” Paige who has a learning disability and has been working in the Same but Different Agency.

What they created was thought provoking and truly inspiring. The agency has been funded with support from the Big Lottery Wales and Coleg Cambria Northop.

You can find out more about The Agency and Same but Different via www.samebutdifferentcic.org.uk.

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