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Friendship celebrated in Roots ad campaign

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Part of Roots' new 'Nice Together' campaign (Roots photo)

A beautiful friendship that began over a decade ago and brought two families together deserves to be celebrated – which is exactly what a new Roots ad campaign does.

Danny Laszlo and Daniel Propper are models for Roots’s winter line of clothes in a campaign called Nice Together, which rolls out this month. The two men, who both have special needs, are pictured sitting side by side, with Daniel Propper facing the camera, his face enveloped by an infectious grin, while a more reserved, but still smiling, Danny Laszlo watches.

The photo is one in a series that celebrates a wide range of families and friends, including people with physical disabilities and same-sex families.

It’s the first time either Daniel Propper, 39, or Danny Laszlo, 33, have been in a commercial and their families have nothing but praise for the initiative.

“Special needs individuals are slowly starting to become integrated, but only very recently,” said Sabrina Propper, Daniel’s sister. “For Roots, who is so well-known in Canada, to take that step, and the entire campaign that promotes the everyday person is so fabulous and so commendable. I hope it encourages other organizations to do the same.”

Kathy Laszlo, Danny’s mother, was a little hesitant when she was first approached by Roots, thinking it was a Christmas campaign and not an appropriate choice for her kippah-wearing son. But the team was very accommodating, scheduling the photo shoot for a Sunday and ensuring that Danny Laszlo’s kippah is visible in the photos.

“It’s actually a brilliant business idea,” said Laszlo, noting that although not every family has someone with a disability, the ads and the stories behind them touch people.

“People can relate much better to ads when it’s everyday scenarios rather than a size 2 model, which nobody can relate to,” she said. “I think people like that there is a story behind it, and it’s not just two random people.”

The Laszlo and Propper families met about 15 years ago, when, according to Laszlo, Propper was a social work student working at DANI, an organization that Laszlo co-founded, which supports disabled adults and provides them with employment opportunities.

The two families soon became friends. “We’re now sitting together at Pesach and having dinner together. It’s really because of the two Dannys, they brought us together,” Laszlo said.

Propper said her three children call Laszlo “Aunt Kathy.” “The only reason Kathy and I have a relationship is because of Daniel and Danny,” she said.

The staff at Roots loved the story of the families’ friendship, which they heard about from another former DANI volunteer who is married to a Roots employee, Laszlo said.

“When my team heard about Danny and Daniel, they were quite inspired by their friendship and stories and their connection to DANI Toronto, which helps develop and nurture independence. With our objective of featuring a wide group of people of all ages, backgrounds and life experiences who were nice together, they were an obvious choice,” James Connell, Roots chief e-commerce and customer experience officer, wrote in an email to The CJN.

The photos, a video of all the people in the campaign and their stories will be featured in stores and online in North America and Asia, Connell said.

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