As someone who became disabled later in life, I have come to understand that I can be proud of being disabled while acknowledging the complex challenges that come with it. Not everyone understands this subtle distinction – let alone in the world of creative advertising – but Apple’s mighty short, “The Greatest”, is different. The 2-minute spot, which has been out for just over six months, has racked up nearly 20 million views on YouTube and was recognized as one of the best campaigns of 2022 by both AdAge and Adweek. But it doesn’t stop there.
“The Greatest” immediately resonated with me, as it not only showcases the company’s innovative accessibility features, but also highlights the stories of a fully disabled cast, representing the authentic experiences of people with disabilities throughout. what is little more than an average day for everyone. two. Released before the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in December, the film has now transcended critical acclaim and started winning prestigious awards. In February, “The Greatest” director Kim Gehrig won Best Commercial at the DGA Awards and last week “The Greatest” received Best of Show at the One Show Awards in New York. These accolades are proud moments for the creative teams who worked on the project, but also remind us of the transformative power of authentic representation to not only drive positive change, but to garner mainstream success at every level.
Tor Myhren, Apple’s vice president of marketing communications, accepted the award at Friday’s awards show in New York alongside actor Kashmiere Culberson. “Accessibility is an important part of innovation at Apple,” Myhren said later in a statement. “It is embedded in our products and services, and we are committed to reflecting this core value in our work. This film is a celebration of remarkable people using our products in remarkable ways and underlines our belief that accessibility is a human right. »
It means a lot to hear such a statement from Apple’s chief creative officer, and his comments point to a deeper truth. If brands are going to market disability, they should be able to save it. Accessibility is at the heart of Apple’s philosophy, and the company builds accessible design principles into every product from the start. Just last week, on Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Apple unveiled a range of upcoming accessibility features addressing cognitive, visual and voice accessibility, in line with what it has done for years. These advancements build on their longstanding leadership in accessibility, with many features introduced from years past highlighted in “The Greatest”.
Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s Senior Director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives, who has been with the company for nearly 20 years, tells me that this approach — whether it’s products, services or ads — n Nothing New: “From the beginning, Apple has been focused on creating products and experiences for everyone – and that includes the stories we tell. Accessibility has a real impact on people’s lives, and we work closely with disability communities to ensure our products work for a diverse set of users.”
As for the cast members themselves, they agree that “The Greatest” only amplified the disability-positive work they were already creating. “The Greatest” follows the lives of seven people as they engage in various activities, showing how Apple’s suite of accessibility features allow them to navigate a world that was not designed with their needs. The casting process ensured that the narratives depicted in the film truly reflect the experiences of the cast members. From influencer to model, pianist prodigy to veterinarian, high school student to mother and music producer, the diversity of talents and personalities portrayed in the film helped shape an authentic portrayal of their stories.
Kashmiere Culbertson, actress in ‘The Greatest’, says, “I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to challenge people’s perception of what I’m capable of, and The Greatest was an opportunity to do that. make for a vast global audience. I am so happy to be recognized in this way. I hope it will impact the lives of others and give more people the strength and courage to dare to be different.” is seen driving a motor vehicle or wearing makeup, this is her authenticity in the film which paves the way for greater understanding and acceptance.
“The film was made with such excellence, staying true to the unique greatness of each person within them,” says jazz pianist Matthew Whitaker, who in addition to appearing in the film brings his piano improvisation skills to the table. to the powerful soundtrack. “The accessibility of Apple products has given me the freedom to create and collaborate with other creatives, and it was especially rewarding to perform on the film’s soundtrack. I’m amazed that so many people have got to listen to the music I was a part of. Somehow, knowing that Whitaker’s creative contributions (along with those of fellow music producer and co-star Cola Boyy) are infused into the sounds as well as the visuals, only solidifies the impression of “The Greatest” as a collaborative effort.
For too long, a culture of shame has surrounded disability and the need for accessibility and accommodation. This culture has perpetuated the misconception that one should be ashamed of being disabled, which leads to the marginalization and exclusion of people with disabilities. “The Greatest” challenges this narrative head-on by celebrating the talent and accomplishments of people with disabilities, emphasizing that when communication, physical, sensory and behavioral barriers are removed, we can all reach our full potential.
Apple’s commitment to reshaping the narrative around disability is evident through its innovative accessibility features and collaborations with the disability community. That’s what makes these stories important. And the fact that they prioritized authentic representation by elevating cast members in the creative process, amplifying their voices and experiences, demonstrating that disability is not a limitation but a unique aspect of human diversity.
Since its first Oscar last year with “CODA,” Apple has been clear that centering Deaf and disabled perspectives is not incompatible with commercial success; in fact, the two are perfectly aligned. I hope these groundbreaking films and others to follow will inspire other companies and storytellers to prioritize and, more importantly, invest in authentic representation and accessibility, fostering a more inclusive world for all – and can -be even win great prizes, at the same time.
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