Target praised for using model with Down syndrome in ad

Target praised for using model with Down syndrome in ad

Over the holidays, Target Corp. quietly did something small that is generating big praise.

Without trying to draw attention to itself or the child, Target included a young boy with Down syndrome in one of its clothing advertisements.

It might not seem like much at first, but the intentional, untrumpeted inclusion of mentally handicapped people in ads aimed at a general audience is a rare strategy for major retailers. Target's ad says something reassuring about what "diversity" and "inclusion" mean for the company.

Here's the ad:

Target praised for using model with Down syndrome in ad

Ryan, the boy on the far left, was born with Down syndrome, though without looking close you probably wouldn't notice anything special about the ad.

Target's understated approach to including a model with Down syndrome won major kudos from Rick Smith. Smith is the author of, a blog chronicling he and his wife's experiences raising their one-year-old son Noah, who was also born with Down syndrome.

In a post entitled "Target Is 'Down' With Down Syndrome: 5 Things Target Said By Saying Nothing At All," Smith writes:

Rick Smith and his son Noah
Rick Smith and his son Noah
This wasn't a "Special Clothing For Special People" catalog. There wasn't a call out somewhere on the page proudly proclaiming that "Target's proud to feature a model with Down syndrome in this week's ad!" And they didn't even ask him to model a shirt with the phrase, "We Aren't All Angels" printed on the front.

In other words, they didn't make a big deal out of it. I like that.

In a response befitting the low-key nature of the advertisement, Target Corp., when contacted for comment, issued the following statement:

Target is committed to diversity and inclusion in every aspect of our business, including our advertising campaigns. Target has included people with disabilities in our advertising for many years and will continue to feature people that represent the diversity of communities across the country.

John Eighmey, advertising professor at the University of Minnesota and an expert on brand communication, said Target should be "applauded" for the ad.

"Over the past twenty years or so, advertising has gradually become more inclusive," Eighmey said. "Target is showing us that when we look at advertising we should see people, not artifice."

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