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Background information

In this week’s egtabite, we focus on the issues of inclusion and accessibility, taking a closer look at how TV advertising can be made accessible to the blind or visually-impaired through the provision of audio description (AD) services. By showcasing the progress that has already been made in facilitating AD services, this egtabite is a call to action and aims to inspire TV companies to embark on their own journey towards making sure TV is truly accessible to all audiences.

Leading the way towards greater accessibility

Progress has been made already when it comes to widening access to TV content – TV advertising must come next. While subtitles on TV commercials, for the benefit of the deaf and hard of hearing are already technically possible in many instances, AD services for the blind and visually-impaired present more significant challenges. However, with around 30 million blind or partially-sighted people in Europe, AD also represents a great opportunity as it has the potential to reach all those that are currently being excluded.

From ITV in the UK to Publiespaña in Spain - a number of TV companies are already leading the way by offering clients the possibility to run AD on their TV advertising messaging. We are now beginning to see some interesting initiatives and innovative solutions emerging as the technical capacity for AD develops.

Using solutions from programming to enable AD for ad breaks

TF1, for example, has long promoted and worked towards greater accessibility to its content. By harnessing the expertise and knowhow from the programming side of the business, TF1 Pub were able to introduce AD for their advertising breaks too. TF1 Pub launched their first audio-described TV ad with P&G in March 2021 - the ad featured shampoo brand Head & Shoulders and was followed by around 20 audio-described campaigns that aired the same year.

“As President of egta, I would like to encourage all partners in the industry, and in particular all TV colleagues, to embark on this journey.  Everyone wins if our content and commercial messages are made accessible to all.”
--- Laurent Bliaut, egta President (former) and Deputy Director General, TF1 Pub

Raising awareness through an AD ad-break takeover

Channel 4 Sales also ran a similar initiative in 2021, in partnership with the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People - UK). An audio-described ad-break takeover was launched during the Paralympic Games featuring advertisers such as Airbnb, BT Broadband, Experian, Virgin Media, and P&G brands Gillette and Oral B. 4 Sales were able to fill two ad breaks with audio-described ads and also produced a guide aimed at informing clients about AD and how it can be included in their campaigns.

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An innovative solution for AD services

SevenOne Media found an alternative solution for delivering access services by creating a mobile app that allows users to activate AD for their TV content through their own mobile device. SevenOne Media worked with Austrian access services specialists, AUDIO2, to create the app, available on iOS and Android. The service is even compatible with smart speakers such as Amazon’s Alexa, which allows users to request a reminder for when TV content with AD is available. While the service is available at present for TV programming, the solution is technically suitable for advertising content too.

An increasing priority for advertisers

Advertisers are increasingly looking to make sure that their advertising messages are accessible to as many people as possible. Global FMSG giant P&G has set out ambitious plans to make all of its advertising messaging accessible, through access services like AD, by 2025. Other global advertisers, such as Unilever and Mastercard, are making bold moves in this space to demonstrate the importance of accessibility and inclusion.

Mastercard, for example, created an ad campaign for their ‘Touch Card’ product, aimed at the blind and partially-sighted – a wonderfully creative ad that quite literally shines the spotlight on AD.

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), meanwhile, is exploring the development of resources and best practice so that, once broadcasters are equipped, accessible advertising can be produced accordingly.

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TV as a force for good

TV companies today have the opportunity to harness the power of TV as a force for good by including those audiences that have traditionally been left behind. egta invites all TV companies to put accessibility and inclusion on the agenda by exploring the feasibility of access services for their own advertising breaks. Together we can create a more inclusive and more accessible media landscape in which TV is truly for everyone.

For more information please refer to egta’s Snapshot: A Practical Guide to Access Services in TV Advertising available here.

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