Why a Household CPG Brand Made an Honest Film About Autism

There is a gender gap in autism diagnoses, and research points to widespread public misconceptions about the experiences and needs of autistic girls. 

Vanish, a household garment care brand in the U.K., is tackling stereotypes about autism in its latest ad campaign. Though it may seem an unexpected choice for a CPG brand to address such an issue, the campaign is part of a longtime initiative from U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 to improve diversity across advertising

Since 2016, Channel 4 has run its annual Diversity in Advertising Award, which challenges advertisers and their agencies to pitch campaigns that are diverse and inclusive. Each year’s contest has a different theme, and the winning campaign receives $1.2 million (1 million pounds) in commercial airtime on the channel. 

The 2022 brief was to focus on disability. Only 4% of TV ads in the U.K. feature disabled people, dropping to 1% of disabled people in lead roles–despite 22% of the national population being disabled, according to Channel 4’s Mirror on the Industry report.

Vanish and agency Havas London won for their campaign about autism, and it debuts on March 31. 

The team decided to specifically focus on the experiences of an autistic girl, because research shows a gender gap in autism diagnoses. Girls are three times less likely than boys to receive a diagnosis, and diagnosis for a quarter of autistic girls can take two years or longer, according to research from Vanish’s charity partner Ambitious About Autism. 

Shattering stereotypes

Vanish’s short film, titled Me, My Autism and I, tells the story of a real autistic girl named Ash and the visceral importance of her hoodie. The narrative is based on an insight that the agency learned while collaborating with Ambitious About Autism: “clothes can be a lifeline” among autistic people, said Elliot Harris, Reckitt global executive creative director and creative partner at Havas London. 

Personal items of clothing can often be “a source of comfort to help navigate a world not built for them,” Harris explained. “For Vanish, this represents a clear, credible role for the product and a natural synergy with its purpose: keeping these clothes the same, wash after wash, really matters.” 

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