Yes You Can!

I love a good TV commercial, a good ad. I guess it goes with the territory, being a marketer. In fact I’ve often thought that it should be written into the person specification for all marketing roles; “Must love a good ad”. It’s the ones that elicit a strong emotion that are the best; the ones that make me laugh, cry, squirm, rant, or just sit quietly and contemplate…the ads that I can’t wait to tell other people about. So I keep a board of my favourite ads on Pinterest, and I bring them out from time to time to liven up a lecture or tutorial. The students love it – they love a good ad too!

So here’s a thing. I was watching a programme on TV the other night and along came the commercial break. More often than not the perfect opportunity to get up to put the kettle on or nip to the loo. Not this time. I didn’t move. I was still sat on the sofa, totally absorbed by an advert for the 2016 Paralympics. The new Superhumans Ad features more than 100 people with disabilities tunefully contributing to Sammy Davis Jr’s “Yes I can”! It celebrates disability and all that is good about diversity and inclusivity. A sequel to the 2012 Superhumans ad, it is pure genius.

Now I don’t recall any ads for the Olympic Games this year. I’m pretty sure there were some, but none stand out in my memory as one to add to the Pinterest board. So what is it about the Paralympics ad that makes it so memorable…that etches a permanent “must remember this one” notch in my marketing brain? Maybe it’s just a damn good ad, a powerful creative concept, a strong visual and a catchy tune…or maybe it’s something more.

Do you remember the spectacular opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics; Stephen Hawking’s speech and Marc Quinn’s celebrated sculpture of pregnant disabled woman Alison Lapper dominating the centre stage? It was breathtaking, thought provoking and much applauded by the media Worldwide, over days and weeks to come. With a finale of Beverley Knight singing “I am what I am” bringing tears to the eyes of many in the 62,000 strong audience at the Olympic Stadium, something changed that night in terms of our perception of disability. The nation as a whole suddenly embraced impairment and stood in awe of the achievements of our paralympic athletes.

London 2012 Paralympics was hailed as the best Paralympic Games ever. It began a new era, a Games where “remarkable” triumphed over just “great”. Oscar Pistorious, the blade runner, appeared on our screens sprinting on what became a new generation of prosthetic limbs to be exposed with pride instead of hidden from view. Extraordinary stories were told of triumph over adversity and a nation, indeed a World, watched and listened with respect and pride. Research concluded that 81% of British adults thought the 2012 London Paralympics had a positive impact on the way people with an impairment are viewed by the public. That’s eighty one percent!

We were led into the 2012 London Paralympics with the first Superhumans ad, which I also loved, but which elicited a different emotion in me. There was something shocking about it; the car crash, the bomb, the foetal scan picture. There was also something mysterious about it, with the dark background of unknown territory. Looking back, it feels like an introduction to what is possible, where the new ad feels like a celebration of what we know can be achieved.

If you’ve not seen it yet then watch it on YouTube. You too will undoubtedly feel proud and in awe of these incredible people. I’m pretty sure we’re going to be treated to an amazing Paralympic Games in Rio and I’m pretty sure the World will be watching, echoing the words from the Superhumans ad in anticipation of some spectacular achievements…. Yes You Can!

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