Channel 4 challenges UK advertisers to improve disabled representation in advertising campaigns

Category: News Release

•    New research finds only 4% of TV adverts in the UK feature disabled people, dropping to 1% of disabled people in lead roles, despite 22%¹ of the UK population being disabled
•    This year’s 2022 Diversity in Advertising Award launches with over £1m TV & social media advertising airtime prize to include Channel 4’s YouTube channel for the first time, in addition to the linear channel portfolio, All 4 and a 4Studio campaign

Channel 4’s 2022 Diversity in Advertising Award returns this year to tackle the ongoing lack of authentic representation and portrayal of disabled people in TV advertising.

The broadcaster’s push to address the continued lack of prominence of disability in UK advertising comes off the back of new research² from Channel 4’s award-winning insight project, Mirror On The Industry.

 The latest research finds that although disabled representation has improved over the last few years, it still remains incredibly low. It highlights that much more work needs to be done if British TV Ads are to be truly representative of the UK’s disabled population, which is currently more than one in five people.

New data reveals that just 4% of TV adverts in the UK feature disabled people (vs 3% in 2020) which is considerably low compared to the 22% of the UK population who are disabled.

Furthermore, the majority of these roles were filled by older characters (33% over 50​ vs. 11% of all characters) and only 1% ​of TV adverts feature disabled people playing lead roles​ (staying flat vs 2018 and 2020 data).

Channel 4’s 2022 Diversity In Advertising Award brief is challenging advertisers and creative agencies to pitch an exceptional campaign which features and portrays disabled people with any kinds of condition, whether it’s a visible and/or non-visible disability, at the heart of the ad, which must remain a powerful promotion for the brand’s product or services. It is the first time the award has returned to a previous theme since its inception in 2016.

The judging panel, made up of experts from across the industry, will decide the winning advert which will receive £1m of commercial airtime across Channel 4, All 4 and, for the first time, Channel 4’s YouTube channel.

After the success of 2021’s Diversity in Advertising Award, an additional £100k bespoke social media campaign produced by 4Studio will again accompany the winning ad.

Verica Djurdjevic, Chief Revenue Officer at Channel 4 said: “Our ground-breaking Diversity in Advertising Award has generated a huge amount of debate within the advertising industry since it was launched in 2016.

“But actual progress on improving disabled representation has been too slow and it’s time to supercharge our efforts, embrace the challenge and put disabled people at the heart of our campaigns.

“Each year it’s a genuine thrill to see the amazing ideas brands and agencies put forward, and we’re looking forward to working with the best in the industry once again to help bring about meaningful and lasting change.” 

Broadcaster Ade Adepitan got his first break into television as a result of appearing on a TV advert.

Ade, who will be on the Diversity In Advertising Award judging panel, said: “More than a fifth of the UK population is made up by disabled people and it’s only right that they see themselves fairly reflected across the media.

“Channel 4 has consistently shown the incredible impact an ad can have through its Super. Human. campaigns and it’s time for the advertising industry to harness its creative energies and fully embrace the diversity of the whole population.”

“It’s crazy to think we’re still in a world where Channel 4 needs to offer £1 million to get advertisers to properly reflect the British population, but sadly, we are.”

James Taylor, Director of Strategy at disability equality charity Scope, who joins Ade on the judging panel, said: “Channel 4’s broadcasting and content has consistently promoted the representation of disabled people for well over a decade.

“There are over 14 million disabled people in this country, yet disability still remains hugely underrepresented on our screens and throughout the advertising industry.  

“By consistently overlooking a fifth of the population, the UK advertising industry is missing out on both creative and business opportunities.”

Channel 4 has led the charge on featuring disability in its own advertising since it unleashed its multi-award-winning ‘Super. Human.’ campaigns at the London 2012 Paralympics.

Last year its Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Games trail Super. Human. – which was awarded a prestigious Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions last week - reached 81% of the population during the Games – and 80% of viewers credited the Paralympic Games for bringing important but difficult issues to a mainstream audience. 

New this year, the winning Diversity In Advertising Award ad and accompanying 4Studio campaign must follow AdGreen guidelines provided by the Advertising Association which helps eliminate the negative environmental impacts of production.

The judges will also select five runners up and Channel 4 will offer each £250k of match-funded commercial airtime.

Competition entries must be submitted by 4pm 24th August 2022. The winner and runners-up will be announced in October, with the campaign airing on Channel 4 in early 2023.

Since 2016, Channel 4 has sought to encourage the UK advertising community to be more inclusive in their campaigns by awarding an annual £1 million airtime prize - £6 million worth of commercial airtime to date.

Previous winners have focussed on disability (Maltesers), mental health (Lloyds Bank), the portrayal of women in the media (RAF) the lack of representation and stereotyping of the LGBT+ community (Starbucks), Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic Culture (EA Sports) and age representation (TENA). 

Channel 4’s own research, PL4YBACK studies, shows that all of the previous award-winning campaigns have tracked higher on brand recognition and improved brand opinion vs standard Channel 4 creative advertising campaigns.


Notes to editors


Details about the award and how to enter are available here:




² 4Sales’ 2022 Mirror on the Industry research: