Dylan Alcott wants to change the ad industry

Former Australian of the Year and tennis champion Dylan Alcott doesn’t want to star in his own campaigns any more, but for a good reason.

The Dylan Alcott Foundation has recently launched the Shift 20 Initiative, which is committed to increasing representation, inclusion and accessibility for people living with disabilities in marketing and communications.

Although almost 20 per cent of Australians live with a disability, they are seriously under-represented on screen, with one per cent of advertising campaigns globally featuring people with a disability.

To address this failure, the foundation has recreated iconic ads from big brands including Weetabix and Bonds to include a person with a disability.

The aim isn’t to reinvent the wheel, rather to show how easily and effectively inclusivity can be brought into marketing.

The Bonds ad is just as you remember it, with a shirtless man wearing bonds underpants and praising their quality.

The difference?

Nathan Borg, who was born deaf and has a cochlear implant, is signing in the ad instead of speaking it.

You’ll notice that even though Alcott is a star himself, he isn’t in front of the camera in any of the ads.

“I didn’t want to be in them,” he told news.com.au

So, why?

Alcott explained it was a “rule” he made with the other people involved.

“I wanted other people to have the opportunity and see themselves represented,” he said, adding the attention of being

After all, Alcott was awarded Australian of The Year in 2022, and there’s a lot of attention that comes with that kind of honour.

“There’s enough, Dylan,” he quipped.

Now, he’s using his platform to champion others and create a change bigger than just one well-known person with a disability.

Alcott said these days, if he does get discriminated against, people often are nicer about it because they know he has a platform.

“They don’t want me to call them out on Twitter,” he said.

But what about the disabled people who aren’t famous?

It is a question that is constantly pushing Alcott to do more for representation, and these ads are an extension of that drive.

Alcott said part of what made this project so exciting was that it isn’t something done on “behalf” of disabled people – it was being done with and by them.

Throughout the process, he wanted to make sure the ads were executed just like normal, feel-good ads we’re used to seeing on our screens.

The ads aren’t a story about someone’s disability, but just include people with disabilities – and it is an important distinction.

“It is just showing people with a disability doing normal things because we are normal people,” he pointed out.

For Alcott growing up, the only time he ever saw a disabled person on television who looked like him was from drink driving ads.

“We are used as items of pity or inspiration, but we just want to be seen as normal people,” he said.

Alcott’s main hope with these ads is that they help change “perceptions”. But while there’s only a slight difference to the originals, he feels the outcome is actually “better”.

Alcott understands that sometimes companies are reluctant to work with people with disabilities purely because they fear getting it wrong, but that kind of thinking doesn’t help anyone.

“People are worried about stuffing it up, so they don’t try … but if you don’t try … you leave people out,” he said.

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