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Special Project

Special Project
From the 11th Annual Shorty Awards

Abilities Unlimited

Entered in Social Good Campaign


Though the entertainment industry is evolving, it still faces challenges when it comes to diversity and inclusion, especially regarding the disability community. Like other underrepresented groups, people with disabilities are still searching for equal opportunities and the main challenges revolve around stigma and misperceptions about disability. However, the industry is always looking for unique stories from unheard voices.

Variety and Easterseals created a thoughtful package, Abilities Unlimited, to raise awareness of a valuable underrepresented talent pool, create industry opportunities for people with disabilities and capitalize on the power of entertainment and its ability to influence, inspire and shift people's perceptions, to advance social change.

Strategy and Execution

As thought leaders in the space, Variety and Easterseals took a very "walk the walk" approach to producing this custom piece. We wanted to make sure we were coming from an honest and educated perspective to make sure our key messaging was well received.

Our writers and production team went through an education process prior to working on the project to make sure we spoke correctly about those with disabilities and used that community's terminology correctly throughout the content. There are very distinct ways the disability community like to be referenced in writing (For example, "people with disabilities," not "disabled people") and our whole team needed to know that to execute the package.

Additionally, this was Variety's first time seeking out freelance writers with disabilities to work on a branded content piece. Writers with disabilities ranging from blindness to Larsen's Syndrome were hired to pen multiple articles, exemplifying our support for employing more talent with disabilities.

Variety and Easterseals were able to enlist participation from various industry contacts — actors, showrunners, studios, networks and agencies — to formulate a compelling mix of testimonials from a wide range of influential names: Millicent Simmonds, Peter Farrelly, Daryl Mitchell, executives from NBCUniversal and CBS, Paramount, ICM, UTA, showrunners Margaret Nagel, Scott Silveri and Vince Gilligan, and many more.

We also produced custom photography, which was crucial to fill our piece with original, consistent content with high-production value. Easterseals had very few assets to provide so Variety produced a two-day photoshoot, in which we captured most of the photography seen in the package — including the cover art.

To encourage the industry to make active change, we included a resource guide in both print and digital with a list of ways casting directors, actors, writers, directors/producers, studios/networks, below the line or other industry professional can advance disability representation in their given sectors of entertainment.

Abilities Unlimited was promoted through a 360º distribution approach utilizing Variety's various media platforms. In print, a 16-page section was polybagged to our weekly issue which was sent to our 50,000+ subscribers, with bonus distribution at multiple industry events. A digital version of the content lived on a custom interactive hub with additional content not included in the print version. This web content was promoted through traffic drivers on and social media posts, targeted to reach Easterseals' core target audience. To really bring the content to life, Easterseals participated in a 20-minute spotlight conversation at Variety's Inclusion Summit on November 15, 2018 in front of over 300 industry attendees.


Abilities Unlimited received recognition and response from the industry and beyond and succeeded at starting a conversation around the underrepresented disability community.

In addition to distributing the print section to key industry players through subscriptions and at key events, our digital content was well received from Variety's following across the board. On, the microsite average time spent per page was 1:35 and traffic drivers saw a click-through-rate of 0.21% vs. a benchmark of 0.11%. On social, the promotional posts saw an engagement rate of 1.09% with many positive conversations and reactions from our audience in the comments section.

After the success of the initial distribution, Easterseals and Variety reprinted 5,000 additional copies of the insert for distribution throughout the Sundance Film Festival reaching an audience of filmmakers, movie lovers, film buyers, executives and talent.

This campaign was also featured in Ad Age as one of the "10 Branded Content Trends to Watch in 2019," with a focus on our work seeking out underrepresented voices.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Variety Content Studio, Easterseals Southern California


Entry Credits