How curiosity and vulnerability creates accessible campaigns

This article was originally featured on Sauce.

How curiosity and vulnerability creates accessible campaigns

This article was originally featured on Sauce. Click here to read it.

The notion of ‘self-care’ was first described by the late writer and black feminist Audre Lorde in her book A Burst of Light as a radical political act and personal survival tool. The pandemic has really brought this notion to light as we all grappled with a complete shift in our thinking around what is important, and how the decisions we make feed into this goal.

The latest campaign by the Viaduct Harbour was a reaction to this phenomenon. The campaign is called Scenes from Viaduct Harbour, and captures the precinct as a place where people from all over Tāmaki Makaurau have long been coming to practice self-care. From overlooking the Waitematā, to skateboarding along the waterfront, to enjoying a meal over the city’s stunning views. This campaign tells that story.

What is most pertinent though, is the embedding of disability and accessibility into the campaign, a first for the Viaduct and the campaign’s photographer Rob Tennent.

Rob spoke about how he felt in creating an accessible campaign for the first time. “I was fearful of it coming off like I was trying to tick boxes”. But he went on to explain that his curious nature allowed him to become comfortable to ask questions, ensuring his talent was being represented authentically.

"It definitely felt vulnerable. I'm not going to just unload a bunch of questions without asking them if it was okay. But once we got to a comfortable place. I was allowed to ask questions. I went all out.”

1 in 4 New Zealand live with some type of disability, yet they largely remain invisible in marketing campaigns and advertising across the board. They also lack representation in mainstream agencies that deliver such campaigns, which makes content inaccessible to the disability community. The exclusion then becomes cyclical.

In Rob’s vast experience shooting people of colour and the queer community, he says diversity in the delivery team is key. “I really believe that if you're shooting diverse people of color, that the team should absolutely reflect that … I had someone ask me, how do you capture your models in such a vulnerable way? It’s because they know that their makeup and hair was done by another person of color”. This sense of comfort and familiarity cannot be understated, and through their diverse group of consultants, the Viaduct has been strict in implementing.

To people who are embedding accessibility and disability inclusion in their campaigns for the first time, his advice is simple. “I would say to not be scared to ask questions, to actually have the people that you're representing behind the scenes as well, people that you can ask questions to.”

Viaduct Habour’s Marketing Manager Sam Saxton-Beer echoes this sentiment, and has been partnering with consultants and artists to display their works around the precinct, telling the story about the space being one for everyone. “Everyone comes here to enjoy luxuries, yet we don’t see ‘everyone’ in luxury marketing material. I’ve overlooked these opportunities in the past but feel increasingly compelled to disrupt this space.”

“I also do my best to hold space for the creative process and I think earning that trust is the key to receiving everything that an artist or creative has to offer. Hāmiora Bailey talked about this, the reception of manaakitanga, in their most recent work we displayed for Pride Month E nekeneke ki tōu ake ao.”

Saxton-Beer goes on to explain that earning trust of the accessibility community will be a journey, and she sees this campaign as simply a starting point.

“The ultimate goal is for Viaduct Harbour to be accessible at every level in a way that the experience is never compromised. It’s not an “oh, we’re going to have to bring you through the back entrance” vibe. It’s a “great, yes, we have a dedicated person / menu / area for that”.