UK retailers urged to make their Christmas adverts accessible for people with sight loss

Post date: 
Monday, 11 November 2019

As the UK’s biggest retailers prepare to launch their much-anticipated Christmas TV adverts, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is urging them not to exclude blind and partially sighted people.

Almost two million people with sight loss are potentially excluded from some, or all, of these adverts because they aren’t produced with audio description (AD) which makes the content accessible.

Matt Stringer, RNIB Chief Executive, said:

“There is absolutely no reason why retailers can’t audio describe their adverts so that blind and partially sighted people are included at Christmas. It’s easy to produce at a tiny fraction of the budget that big brands spend on their adverting campaigns. They are also missing out on marketing their products and services to up to two million people which makes no sense at all.

“Christmas TV adverts are fast becoming an essential part of the UK’s festive culture and we believe that everyone should be able to take part in the conversation around them, no matter how they see.

“We’d also encourage retailers to make all of their future adverts accessible. In the UK we have a flourishing industry of AD providers, with several brands already having started to provide audio describing for their TV commercials. It is one of the most straightforward and reasonable assets to produce and RNIB will be happy to support retailers on this journey, which in turn will help them reach a wider audience and grow their brand.”

The charity has contacted dozens of the UK’s leading retailers asking them to produce AD and is hoping that they will all follow the lead of Proctor & Gamble. In 2018, the multinational consumer giant, which owns brands including Pampers, Gillette and Fairy, committed to making its TV adverts audio-described.

The company’s Inclusive Design Leader Sam Latif said: “By making our advertising more inclusive by adding audio description we have opened up our brands to an audience that we did not previously reach. This not only makes good business sense but is the right thing to do to make everyone that is exposed to our brand advertising feel included and valuable.”

RNIB has already received positive responses from leading retailers including ASDA, who have confirmed they are adding AD to their Christmas adverts this year.

Nathan Ansell, Clothing & Home Marketing Director at Marks & Spencer said, “We’re committed to making M&S the UK’s most accessible retailer, whether customers are shopping online or in-store and of course we want everyone to enjoy our Christmas campaigns. For the first time this year we’re pleased our Clothing advert will have audio description for the action on screen.”

RNIB is calling on retailers to make their ads more inclusive by adding audio description. For any questions and help on how this can be done please contact Paula Robinson, RNIB Head of Strategic Partnerships on [email protected]. Read more about audio description here.

Notes to editor

All media enquiries to Gorki Duhra, PR Manager at RNIB on [email protected] or call 020 7391 2320.

  • Audio description is additional commentary that explains what’s happening on screen to people with sight loss. It describes body language, expressions and movements, making the content clear through sound. AD is a secondary audio track that can be activated across all UK TV Platforms in the same way as subtitles.
  • RNIB supported Proctor and Gamble who committed resources to ensure that all their future adverts to feature audio description (AD). 
  • In 2017, Channel 4 partnered with RNIB, alongside five advertisers, to enable viewers for the first time to 'see' an ad break through the eyes of two million people living with sight loss in the UK. All five commercials during the ad break were repeated with AD.

About RNIB

We are the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Every six minutes, someone in the UK begins to lose their sight. RNIB is taking a stand against exclusion, inequality and isolation to create a world without barriers where people with sight loss can lead full lives. A different world where society values blind and partially sighted people not for the disabilities they’ve overcome, but for the people they are.