Christmas ad accessibility: Debenhams

Day 11 of our Christmas advert accessibility reviews, and today we are looking at the Debenhams advert, “Cinderella”. Have the marketing team thought about accessibility so that everyone can enjoy the all-star cast of their two-part advert? Or does the Fairy Godmother need to take charge and make it more inclusive? Let’s take a look…


Debenhams have released a two-part advert and both feature on their YouTube channel. The first video is a short, 30-second version of the full advert, and this has captions auto-generated by YouTube that are accurate apart from an error at the end, where “Well, who knows?” is captioned as “Wow you know you”. There is also a 20-second version of the advert that also includes accurate captions generated by YouTube.

Screenshot of part one of the Debenhams advert

Teaser video has auto-generated captions with just one error at the end

The second video – part two of the advert – shows the whole story, but this video does not have any captions at all.

Screenshot of part two of the Debenhams advert

Full advert has no captions

It’s really disappointing that captions are missing from the full-length advert, but also frustrating to see such inconsistency within the same organisation.

Audio description

The story begins with a narrator, and we feel optimistic that the advert’s been created in such a way that a secondary audio description version wouldn’t be needed. Sadly, when the girl loses her shoe on the train, this is purely visual. The thing that “girls and boys do nowadays” – using social media to track down the shoe/girl using #shoe hashtags shown as messages on the screen – is another visual item. And the return of the shoe and the two characters coming together at the end is all missed by blind viewers.

This could be helped by amending the narration to pick up on these details a little more, or by creating an audio described version of the advert, but sadly this doesn’t appear to have been done.


As with any video with captions automatically generated in YouTube, a transcript is also generated, so the first video does have a transcript available on YouTube, but the second does not. The video descriptions do not have a transcript, and neither does the website.

Accessible video player

The video is on the Debenhams website and can be navigated using a keyboard. The video plays on the Debenhams website with the option to view the video on YouTube.

The verdict

With just a few changes this could become a fantastic example of an accessible advert. Debenhams have captions on one video, but need to add captions to the second video showing the full advert. The auto-generated captions work well due to the clear narration, but Debenhams need to repair an error on the 30-second version of the advert, and we would advise checking the auto-generated captions for the second when they are added to ensure no mistakes are made. Again, with the audio description the smallest of changes to the narration would make all the difference for blind viewers and make the advert more inclusive.

Please do check out and share our series of Christmas advert accessibility reviews so we can help to ensure more people enjoy these mini blockbusters in future years. And check back tomorrow for another review!