CoorDown marks World Down Syndrome Day with a confident film challenging assumptions

CoorDown marks World Down Syndrome Day with a confident film challenging assumptions

CoorDown, a leading Italian non-profit advocating for the rights of individuals with Down syndrome, has marked World Down Syndrome Day with a campaign by New York agency SMALL, examining the impact of negative assumptions, suggesting that positive perceptions can foster greater opportunities in education, employment, relationships, and other aspects of life.

Titled "Assume That I Can," the video features Madison Tevlin portraying a young woman with Down Syndrome challenging societal expectations. Tevlin's character confronts limitations imposed by others, demonstrating that their beliefs, not her disability, hinder her progress. She argues that by changing perceptions and offering opportunities, individuals with Down Syndrome can thrive.

The video draws on the psychological concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy, as discussed by Marta Sodano during the World Down Syndrome Day Conference. Sodano highlights how people's assumptions shape outcomes, illustrating the concept's significance in education and beyond.

The campaign's inspiration lies in combining this sociological and psychological concept with Sodano's insights. Karim Bartoletti, Partner/MD/Executive Producer, underscores the campaign's innovative approach, challenging stereotypes in both its message and production. By defying assumptions, the campaign aims to raise awareness and break barriers.

Our take

The work follows in the footsteps of previous campaigns created within this successful partnership of CoorDown and the creative agency, SMALL; 'Just the two of us' highlighted the right to romance and sexual relationships, and 'The Hiring Chain' which was a message to employers all over the world is that hiring a person with Down syndrome not only changes the life of the person concerned, but can trigger a virtuous circle of new opportunities for everyone.  

This 2024 campaign to mark World Down Syndrome Day on 21st March certainly deserved the widespread praise it received across socials, with one YouTube user describing the advert as ‘more like a film in its own right’. Certainly, the advert’s storyboarding, direction and editing are a bit of a masterclass in succinctly tackling so many commonly held assumptions in the space of just 1 minute 30!

At its core, however, the advert’s messaging seeks to encourage individuals to change their behaviour to prevent people with Down Syndrome from falling victim to their limiting beliefs. In this way, it follows in the footsteps of some of the most effective adverts of our time.

Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ campaign, for example, is built around the idea of overcoming obstacles and pushing oneself to achieve greatness. By featuring athletes facing challenges and persevering, Nike creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that inspires viewers to believe in their abilities and take action. Likewise, Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ messaging seeks to promote reciprocal behaviour in viewers, who are encouraged to foster connections and spread happiness through the act of sharing.

CoorDown’s advert calls out limiting behaviour, but ultimately reinforces positive behaviour, asking viewers to: ‘assume that I will’. In this way it seeks to promote acceptance and similarities rather than ‘otherness’. A famous example of how not to handle persuasive messaging was Reagan’s 1988 ‘Just Say No’ campaign. The advert, by aligning drug use with a dangerous and roughly defined ‘other’, was criticised for demonising those who are often victims of wider societal neglect.

Ultimately, having a more can-do attitude is a small step we can all take in helping individuals reach their potential. And frankly, it’s the least we can do.

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