In the last few decades there has been major moves to make society more inclusive. This has applied in terms of adjustments to buildings, education and many other sectors. However, it appears that advertising may be lagging behind in terms of embracing inclusion and accessibility, particularly for the blind and visually impaired. Despite the availability of technology such as audio description, narration and speech readers, the majority of video advertising remains inaccessible to many who have problems with their vision. An over reliance on flash ads, a lack of clarity in terms of what is being advertised and use of metaphor that is not easily translated into speech all lead to barriers to understanding and thus engagement with brands and services. I conducted my very own research, a survey of 14 visually impaired and blind individuals identified that there are challenges they face with engaging with advertising which leads to a lack of interest and motivation to engage with the brands in terms of purchase. From the organisational perspective, there is little evidence of a desire to address this situation, due to perceived issues of cost and complexity. However, there are exceptions and these, along with the views of the respondents suggest that there is much more that advertisers could do to make video advertising more accessible to the visually impaired and that this would reap economic benefits for the firm in terms of increased engagement and purchasing motivations.
the following is formatted as a research paper, and not like my usual blog posts. due to the size, it has been seperated into five pages, please use the Table of Content for easy navigation. screen reader users, feel free to use your navigation keys to jump to section of the paper.
Table of Content:
Chapter Two – Literature Review
2.1 Introduction and Overview
2.2 Consumers and Advertising Response – Theoretical Foundations
2.3 Processing and Cognition in the Visually Impaired
2.4 Inaccessible Advertising
2.5 Visual Impairment Friendly Advertising
Chapter Three – Methodology
3.2 Research Pathway
3.3 Research Philosophy
3.4 Research Strategies
3.5 Sampling and Participant Selection
3.6 Data Analysis
3.7 Ethical issues
3.8 Validity & Reliability
Chapter Four – Results and Analysis
4.2 Exposure to Advertising
4.3 Avoidance Behaviours and Tools
4.4 Comparison of Two Advertisements
4.5 Value of Audio Description
4.6 Levels of Ambiguity
4.6 Commitment of Advertising to Creating Accessible Advertising
4.7 Recommended Improvements
Chapter Five – Discussion and Conclusion
5.2 Limitations of the work
5.3 Summary of Key Findings
5.4 Recommendations to Marketers
5.5 Future Research Pathways
5.6 Conclusion and Closing Remarks
Chapter One – Introduction
1.1 Background to the Study
Advertising, which can be described as the efforts of a company to create awareness, interest and desire for their products and services is pervasive in today’s world. Television programmes are interrupted by commercials, radio stations are funded by adverts and the internet, including social media platforms is permeated by pop-up ads, links to organisations and brand awareness messages. Indeed as Simpson (2018) points out, the average individual may be receiving up to 10,000 advertising messages through these mediums every day. However, for some segments of the populations the message may be inaccessible. Those with visual impairments or are completely blind are unable to receive and respond to advertisements that are highly visual. What this means is that if there is no explicit mention of a product, brand or its values, a whole demographic is unable to understand or respond to the advertisement. Put another way, this can be viewed as a form of discrimination, as there is insufficient consideration given to the needs of the visually impaired when advertising is conceptual or contains symbols and referents of a visual nature. Given that in the UK over 2 million individuals consider themselves visually impaired, and of these 360,000 are registered as blind (NHS.org, 2018), there appears to be a clear need to investigate how these individuals engage with advertising. In particular, the types of platforms where they find accessible advertising, challenges faced in decoding and processing information and what marketers can do to reach what is a sizeable demographic. This therefore is the focus of the current work.
1.2 Primary Aim and Research Questions
The primary aim of the work is to identify the level of engagement that those with impaired vision have with advertising and what this means for marketing. To achieve this core aim, the following research questions have been set for the work:
- How do visually impaired individuals experience advertising?
- Does their experience differ depending on platform (TV/radio, online or social media for example)?
- What are the challenges or barriers experienced by those with visual impairments when exposed to highly visual advertising where there is no explicit indication of the product being promoted?
- Are there recommendations that can be made to marketers to make advertising more inclusive and accessible for the visually impaired?
1.3 Research Gap
Despite major shifts towards inclusion in many spheres of life, the approach in terms of marketing and advertising and how they cater for the visually impaired is less well explored. Most works are focused on the presentation of the visually impaired in advertising, ensuring that this section of the population are well and positively represented (Bolt, 2014). In other words, less attention has been given to the other side of the situation, – how those with visual impairment respond to, and engage with advertising. A recent work by Macleod et al, (2017) suggest that in a social media context, and potentially therefore in advertising, that captions support understanding of the images presented. However, the same authors also identified that if the advertising is symbolic or representative rather than direct, this can cause confusion and again leads to a lack of access for those with visual impairments. The gap to be closed by the proposed work therefore is in understanding how those with visual impairments respond to, and engage with, advertising and what this means for marketing practice and inclusion.
1.4 Significance of the Research
Around 3% of the UK population are visually impaired or blind, which represents a high number of individuals that could be potential customers for brands and services. By excluding them with inaccessible advertising, organisations are potentially losing valuable revenue. At the same time, given the inclusion rights of those with visual impairment it is also important, from a diversity and inclusion equal opportunities perspective to recognise where the advertising and marketing industry is failing to take steps to provide accessible advertising to the visually impaired. Therefore from both a commercial and academic perspective the proposed work has a clear significance.
1.5 Scope of the Research
The data for the work was gathered from a group of visually impaired participants in late 2018 and details of the sampling and recruitment criteria can be found in the Methodology section. From this approach, it can be seen that this work time-based and represents the views and situation in the study area at the time of the work, regarding study design and timeframes. It is recognised that this situation may change and therefore the scope of the work and its outcomes, are at this stage, indicative only.
1.6 Structure of the Study
This introductory chapter has set out the background, aims and objectives for the work and provide an overview of the value and significance of the study. The remainder of the work will be structured as follows:
Chapter two will present a review of existing literature in the areas of consumer responses to advertising and what this means to a visually impaired individual. In addition, the chapter will present indications of previous works in the area of inaccessible advertising and the impact this has on encouraging inclusion for the visually impaired.
Chapter three, building on the foundation from the literature review, will present the methodology adopted for gathering primary data from a group of visually impaired participants regarding their views on advertising and its accessibility. In addition, the process for data analysis and conclusion drawing will be presented along with rationales for their selection.
Chapter four will present in graphical and narrative form, the results of the analysis of the focus group discussions and reflect on and evaluate these in the light of existing viewpoints regarding those with visual impairment and inaccessible advertising.
Chapter five will deliver an overall summary and conclusion of the work, which incorporates a discussion and evaluation of the outcomes, including identification of limitations of the work and its conclusions. Alongside this will be recommendations for advertisers on how they can ensure advertising is more inclusive and accessible to those with visual impairments.