Ryan has what some folks call an "all-American" look: Blond hair, blue eyes, creamy skin. He also has Down Syndrome. And he's in a Target ad this week — after appearing in a Nordstrom catalog last year.
AdWeek directs our attention to a blog called Noah's Dad, written by the father of a boy with Down syndrome, who is excited about the Target ad, noting that the retailer has made a some big statements by casting Ryan in the circular:
They said that people born with Down syndrome deserve to be treated the same as every other other person on this planet.
They said that it's time for organizations to be intentional about seeking creative ways to help promote inclusion, not exclusion. (It's no accident that Target used a model with Down syndrome in this ad; it was an intentional decision. If want the world to be a place where everyone is treated equal we can't just sit around and watch the days tick away. We have to be intentional. We have to do something.)
They said that companies don't have to call attention to the fact that they choose to be inclusive in order for people to notice their support for people with disabilities. In fact, by not making a big deal out of it they are doing a better job of showing their support for the special needs community.
They said it's important for the world to see people born with disabilities with a fresh set of eyes. That it's time for us to lay down all the inaccurate stereotypes from the past and move forward embracing the future with true and accurate ones.
Last year, Taya, a little girl with Down syndrome, was signed to a modeling agency in the UK. And actress Lauren Potter, born with Down syndrome, has been in 22 episodes of Glee. We often discuss underrepresented groups in terms of women and racial minorities; those with special needs? Not as often.
While high-end retailers tend to aim for exclusivity and "aspirational" ad campaigns — impossibly pretty people in multi-million-dollar homes and jets and in secret Mediterranean coves — mass-market companies thrive on a democratic, "something for everyone!" vibe. So what happens when a kid with Down syndrome is cast in promotional material for a nation-wide store? People take note, and applaud. Of course, the retailers are fully aware that their target market — middle-class parents — are accepting of this choice. It's not pandering, but it's also not risky. Do you think a luxury brand — Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel — would ever cast a model born with Down syndrome?
In any case, when it comes to Ryan, the entire experience has been a positive one. Ryan's mom posted a comment on the Noah's Dad blog, writing:
We are very pleased that Nordstrom placed Ryan in their catalog. The whole process of modeling is an extreme confidence booster for him. He received so much warmth and caring from the Nordstrom crew that he thought they were there just for him!
Boy With Down Syndrome Becoming an Unlikely Ad Star [AdFreak]
Target Is ‘Down' With Down Syndrome: 5 Things Target Said By Saying Nothing At All [Noah's Dad]
Noah Is "Down" With Nordstrom [Noah's Dad]