Ad for World Down Syndrome Day aims to challenge assumptions

Actor and model Madison Tevlin stars in the ad, which dismantles various stereotypes about the limitations of life with Down syndrome

The new campaign is created by ad agency Small in New York for the charity CoorDown in Italy alongside various Down syndrome associations across the world, and is released ahead of World Down Syndrome Day on March 21.

Its message is inspired by a speech given by Marta Sodano, a 29-year-old Italian woman with Down syndrome, at the United Nations, when describing the hurdles she had overcome in her school experience. “I discovered that in psychology there is a concept called ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’, whereby a teacher who thinks that a student cannot understand would just act accordingly and therefore they would not teach the student. And there you go: the prophecy self-fulfills.”

The ad expands this idea beyond teaching into various life experiences, from being served a cocktail in a bar to living alone. Throughout, instead of presuming that these are not goals for those with Down syndrome, Tevlin instead demands “assume that I can”.

The ad follows previous campaigns from CoorDown that address the prejudices that people with Down syndrome can face, including The Hiring Chain, released in 2021, which looked at barriers in the workplace.

“This year, we wanted to make a very different film than in previous years,” say Luca Lorenzini and Luca Pannese, executive creative directors at Small. “Taking inspiration from a speech Marta Sodano gave to the United Nations a few years ago, we set out to give a strong message against prejudice. Thanks to Madison’s great acting skills and versatility and the talent of director Rich Lee, we made a film full of energy that we hope will help break down the stereotypes that still restrict the dreams and plans of people with Down syndrome.”

Agency: Small
Executive Creative Directors: Luca Pannese, Luca Lorenzini
Creative Director: Paolo Montanari
Production Company: Indiana Production
Director: Rich Lee