One in every five women is likely to experience disability in her life, while one in every 10 children is a child with a disability. An estimated 46 percent of people aged 60 and over are people with disabilities. People with disabilities in the world are among the hardest hit by Covid-19. Of the 1 billion people worldwide with disabilities, 80 percent live in developing countries.
These statistics, compiled by the United Nations, show just how widespread disabilities are in the world. And yet, people with disabilities are still so rarely depicted in advertising, which has long struggled to square its typically utopian view of life with any so-called "imperfections."
Now, Apple steps into the fray with one of the most infectious ads ever made featuring people with disabilities. Titled "The Greatest," the spot, directed by Kim Gehrig, is timed to International Day of Persons with Disabilities this Saturday. It features seven people with various disabilities—vision, hearing, mobility, cognitive—navigating everyday life, with an array of technological help from Apple devices.
A company with a media budget like Apple's releasing a piece like this instantly raises awareness on a huge scale. The spot, posted to YouTube yesterday, is already closing in on 3 million views. Beyond the paid media, the spot's creative excellence, par for the course for Apple, makes it highly shareable as well, boosting organic views.
The original soundtrack is an interesting story. The lyrics are based on speeches by Muhammad Ali, who became an advocate for disability after developing Parkinson's disease. The Australian choral group Spinifex Gum sang the song, which was then remixed by Cola Boyy, with improvised piano by Matthew Whitaker on top of that—both of whom feature in the spot.
Of course, Apple being Apple—almost everything they do is a product ad—the accessibility features are front and center here, too, positioning the brand as a true partner to people with disabilities, with allows the company to credibly bask in the emotional glow of the exuberant creative. Also, much like Channel 4's lauded Paralympics campaigns in the U.K., this work isn't just a triumph of representation. Beyond that, it completely recasts disability from something that's all too often considered subhuman into something superhuman. And it reframes people with disabilities as heroes constantly triumphing over adversity at almost every turn.
Coming from a brand with the global profile and creative chops of Apple, the spot is a remarkable gift this holiday. Let's hope it helps lead to broader representation of disability in advertising across the board.