Target is no stranger to fun, family-centric advertising, but a new ad for the chain is getting props on social media for being inclusive. In the ad, set to the tune of Lil Yachty and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “It Takes Two,” a little girl with Down syndrome is just one of several kids playing with Easter-themed products.
The little girl is Sofia Sanchez, and there’s nothing in the ad that makes her seem any different from the other children featured — and that’s why people love it.
This isn’t the first time Target has used children with Down syndrome in their ads — kids with the genetic disorder have been featured in the brand’s print and in-store advertising as well. And, according to Sanchez’s website, she has worked with Target before, appearing in the brand’s “Vibes” and “Cat and Jack” commercials in the summer of 2016. Target spokeswoman Jenna Reck tells Yahoo Beauty that the company is proud of its “long and rich history of diversity” in its advertising. Target has included people with disabilities in its ads since the 1980s, Reck says, and the company regularly gets letters and phone calls from parents who are excited to see kids like theirs included in their advertising. “Today, when we work with casting agencies, we specifically request for the casting recommendation to include children with special needs,” she says.
But Target is just one of many brands that has rolled out ads recently featuring children with Down syndrome. OshKosh B’Gosh’s holiday, spring, and summer shoots in 2016 featured Asher Nash, a 16-month-old, and Grace Driscoll, a Chicago kindergartner, also appears in current in-store Easter ads for Walgreens.
Clinical psychologist John Mayer, author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, tells Yahoo Beauty that Target’s latest ad is a “fantastic effort with just the right tone to it — that is, without fanfare.” Gail Saltz, M.D., a psychiatrist and the author of The Power of Different, agrees, telling Yahoo Beauty that it helps “normalize” differences, including Down syndrome. And that can have a big impact. “Normalizing helps to diminish stigma, and stigma prevents people with differences from having good self-esteem and from being socially accepted, included, and getting opportunities,” she explains. “If people can see those with differences as not really being so different from themselves, they will be more accepting.”
Even if people don’t consciously realize that Sanchez has Down syndrome, they can subconsciously register it. “This type of visual message has the proven power of subliminal integration into our brain, and is very powerful,” Mayer says.
The fact that Sanchez isn’t called out as any different from the other children in the ad is especially poignant, Sara Weir, president of the National Down Syndrome Society, tells Yahoo Beauty. “The biggest misconception is that people with Down syndrome want to be treated differently — that’s not the case,” she says. “They want the same rights and opportunities as others, to have a job, get married, go to college, and just live their lives.” Weir says. That’s why her organization “absolutely loves the fact that Target just made Sofia part of the ad campaign and didn’t single her out just because she has Down syndrome,” she says.
The overall effect is subtle, but experts say it’s incredibly important. “Bravo for Target — this is exactly the way to make social change and lasting change,” says Mayer.
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