Six-year-old clothing model Ryan Langston has been discovered and applauded and via social media channels--all because he appears in mainstream Target and Nordstrom ads that don't call attention to his Down Syndrome.
The adorable six-year-old has a flashy smile, big blue eyes and an abundance of energy. He also has Down Syndrome, but the kids' clothing ads he appears in don't call attention to that fact. In fact, they don't call attention to anything except the clothes that he's wearing.
And for this quiet inclusion, Target and Nordstrom are being applauded by the parents of Down Syndrome kids far and wide. When Rick, author of the blog Noah's Dad and father to a child with Down Syndrome, saw Ryan on page 9 of the Target circular, he was overjoyed. In particular, he was thrilled that Target hadn't called attention to Ryan's condition, instead silently including him in the ad with no muss or fuss regarding the child's condition. Rick writes:
Even though Target didn’t make a big deal out of the fact they used a boy with Down syndrome as a model in their ad, they said plenty. They said the same things that Nordstrom said when they used Ryan as a model in their catalog this past summer. I could list a hundred things Target said by running this ad, let me give you 5 that immediately come to mind:
- 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
- They said you don’t have to spend a lot for your kids to look good! (I mean come on, that shirt’s only five bucks!)
Yes, social media can be used to spread good news and good best practices. This is a prime example.
It's refreshing to report a story not about PR gone wrong or yet another company that doesn't get customer service, but instead about organizations that are not only promoting inclusive marketing but also decidedly not bragging about it specifically because that would defeat the point.
But that hasn't stopped anyone else from bragging on Target's and Nordstrom's behalf (behalves?). Ryan has become a bit of a celebrity and has been featured on NBC Nightly News, and the NoahsDad.com Facebook page currently shows over 10,000 Likes with a stunning 7,576 Talking About This. Currently, a Google search for "Ryan Langston" turns up 17,800 results.
I don't know about you, but it brings joy to this social media geek's heart to see organizations being rewarded with Tweets, Likes, +1s and mainstream media coverage for doing something well. Kudos to both Target and Nordstrom's for their quiet inclusion approach, and kudos to the social media communities for expanding and amplifying the case study.