Another breakthrough for audio description on TV adverts

Post date: 
Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Category: 
TV, Radio and Film
Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt dressed as superhero Super Bolt, holding a blaster

A new milestone with audio description (AD) has been achieved with the launch of a new TV ad by Virgin Media. This ad, featuring Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt as a superhero, is the first one from Virgin that has been made accessible with AD for viewers with sight loss.

Virgin’s ad is part of their “Switch to Super” campaign to promote their Intelligent WiFi service. It aired for the first time simultaneously across all five main ITV channels on the evening of Saturday 30 March.

Cilesta Van Doorn, Brand Director at Virgin Media, said: “As part of our ongoing commitment to transform the experience for disabled people, we’re proud to enable audio description in our TV ad for the first time and will look to include it whenever possible in the future. Like other big businesses, we’re also pushing for change with the Advertising Standards Authority so that companies like ours can do this more easily.”

David Clarke, Director of Services at RNIB, said: “RNIB are delighted with Virgin Media's decision to audio describe their latest TV commercial for their blind and partially sighted consumers; it's a great step towards bridging the gap in accessibility of content. Commercials are becoming more and more visual therefore the need for description is now greater than ever. We hope this will encourage other companies to start audio describing their ads too and for this to be the norm for all ads moving forward.”

Some of the other companies that have added AD to their TV commercials over the past year are Specsavers, Microsoft, BT Sport, Sainsbury's and PHA. The real lead has been taken by the team at Proctor and Gamble who made a public announcement back in 2017 and committed resources to ensure that all their future TV ads would feature AD. RNIB has supported Proctor and Gamble through this journey and ensured that all stakeholders were part of this conversation.

Last year, RNIB hosted a focus group of expert AD users to understand their expectations and preferences in relation to watching TV commercials with this access feature. Soon after this, the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) launched a consultation on the regulation of TV advertisements that include content provided through AD. The BCAP was especially interested in understanding the experience of wider end users, and whether its current approach to this service is appropriate. The result from this consultation is expected later this year.

Read RNIB’s response to this consultation