My favourite ad of the decade made me think the exact opposite of what I had thought before I saw it. An opinion I’d held for decades disappeared in the space of 90 seconds, replaced by a better one; one that was more inclusive, compassionate and wise.
You see, I used to think ‘handicapped’ people were actually handicapped. I remember when the ‘PC’ phrase ‘differently abled’ popped up in the 1990s, only to be dismissed with laughter: these people weren’t different abled; they were disabled. They were lesser. Disadvantaged. Worthy of not much more than sympathy and pity.
Well, in 2012 an incredible piece of strategic reframing, married to a fucking brilliant piece of film, said bollocks to all that:
The message is perfect, and it’s the ultimate case of ‘show don’t tell’, so you have to accept that these people are just amazing, more amazing than the athletes you’ve admiring for years.
You can’t do any of that stuff with your four working limbs, but they can, no matter what ‘disadvantage’ they might be dealing with. I’ll admit that I feel like a bit of a failure when I watch this, but weirdly enough, I also feel utterly inspired and invigorated.
Great strategy, great message, but also great craft. To convey the right tone here takes superlative direction, impeccable photography, smart editing, a brilliant track, and little moments of witty sound design that keep you transfixed from the first second to the last (I particularly love the five seconds in the middle that show three ways people end up in the Paralympics: a car crash, a bomb and a pregnancy, but with no undercutting sentimentality).
The campaign was accompanied by this excellent poster:
And of course that all led to another classic ad four years later:
Also fantastic, but as it could never have the strategic surprise of 2012, for me it didn’t quite have the same power. However, the fact that they expanded the whole message with so much fun, verve and creativity meant that it was a worthy successor.
So that’s my number one ad/campaign of the decade. Thanks to everyone who made it, and the other eight on my list. You all showed us just what the industry is capable of: entertaining, thought-provoking, behaviour-changing, funny, touching, emotional, transcendent brilliance.