#ColorForAll

Critique

#ColorForAll opens with text on a screen that poses the question ‘Can you imagine a life without color?’, which it then attempts to answer through a sequence featuring four individuals telling their colorblindness stories. Cutting back to the same screen, we read ‘Valspar paint believes everyone should experience color to its fullest’. But unfortunately, there are no image descriptions on this ad, and so the ‘everyone’ Valspar is talking about can only ever actually be ‘anyone who can see or read this’.

We then are then introduced to two professionals. First, we meet a Perceptual Psychologist who discusses colorblindness from a medical perspective. And then we’re introduced to the Co-Founder of Enchroma, which is a company that sells eyeglasses that allow people with some forms of colorblindness to experience a broader spectrum of color.

The four colorblind individuals then don the Enchroma glasses and enter a room that features a rainbow colored string art installation and some color samples painted on a wall. It is at this point that we, at Critical Axis, begin to wonder what sort of prompts FCB Chicago and Valspar are using to elicit answers from the four colorblind individuals. We initially hear bittersweet stories, where each individual describes what they have been missing throughout their lives.

But at the end of the spot, we capture a glimpse of a different narrative when Atlee (who, interestingly, is the only person in this ad who isn’t a white male) says “I never really thought about my colorblindness that much. It was just something that I had that I dealt with and it wasn’t really a big deal to me.” It feels to us as though Atlee was trying to let FCB Chicago and Valspar know her story isn’t the tragedy scenario they were trying to create. If anyone knows Atlee, please introduce us, we’d love to ask her!

In considering the intended audience for this ad, we reference the official 2015 #ColorForAll press release, where we learn that Valspar is on “a mission to bring color to those who don’t have it and to remind those who do to appreciate it.’‘ The press release also calls for people to submit their own colorblindness stories via a now defunct website, ValsparColorForAll.com.

It is likely that the stories Valspar requested were going to be used to remind everyone else to be grateful they can see color. This is the very definition of Inspiration Porn; the objectification of disabled bodies to inspire non-disabled audiences, imploring them to ‘stop and smell the roses’ because their lives aren’t so bad after all!

But from what we have been able to glean, Valspar never shared those stories. In searching the Wayback Machine for snapshots, we discovered the website did not change from the day it launched on March 18, 2015 until it was taken down in late May of 2016. Valspar also recently removed the #ColorForAll ad from YouTube, though it was soon after re-posted by Enchroma.

The removal of the #ColorForAll content from Valspar channels raises important questions about what ‘For All’ really means. The term ‘For All’ is veering into virtue signaling territory, as brands are increasingly employing it to assert the goodness of their deed. But we are concerned by the fleeting nature ‘For All’ initiatives. ‘For All’ is becoming synonymous with ‘For not very long’.

We turn to Rose Eveleth’s 2017 article in The Outline titled When disability tech is just a marketing exercise, where she writes about the predictable marketing cycle of disability tech:

Companies know that accessibility projects can garner great press. They also probably know that many journalists are unlikely to follow up and see whether the big promises are actually coming true. So they flaunt their minimal or nonexistent ties to accessibility, reap the glowing media coverage, and let the projects slip quietly into the night.

We instead consider how to move beyond the fleeting nature of initiatives and into the more concrete space of a brand’s ethos. We dream of the placement of a small tactile mark on every Valspar paint chip that informs consumers of that color’s visibility. Tactility is vitally important, as blind people oftentimes have a passion for color, as well as a more deeply ingrained desire for new forms of access.

So we’re left asking Valspar, what would happen if you created an ad that showcased disability as part of your brand’s ethos?