Making a follow-up to a successful ad campaign is always a daunting task. It’s especially daunting when that ad is Meet the Superhumans – the multi-award-winning spot that helped transform perceptions of the Paralympics in 2012 and attract the highest viewing figures for coverage of the Games in a decade.
For its latest Paralympics trailer, promoting this year’s Games in Rio, Channel 4 has released a three-minute film that celebrates not just athletes, but disabled non-athletes from around the world. There are dancers and musicians as well as footballers, swimmers and fencers, a rock climber with one arm, a rally driver who steers cars with his feet and children with prosthetic limbs playing football and bouncing on a trampoline.
Scenes of sporting feats and stunts are juxtaposed with people doing everyday tasks – one woman changes her child’s nappy with her feet while another writes notes during a phone call while gripping her pen with her toes. The ad is set to Sammy Davis Jr. track Yes I Can, performed throughout by a specially assembled band of disabled musicians.
The film has a confident, defiant tone and an empowering message. It acknowledges the challenges that disabled people face on a daily basis (both physical challenges and negative attitudes towards disability), but it also shows that disabled people are capable of doing both extraordinary and everyday tasks as well as any able-bodied person could – whether that task is dancing, rock climbing, swimming or simply brushing their teeth. It ends with the message, We’re All Superhumans, acknowledging that it’s not just athletes who have had to overcome enormous challenges to succeed.
Alice Tonge, creative director at 4Creative, says she hopes the ad will change the way people think about disability. “If you look at the dictionary definition of disability, it’s very negative – it says a condition which limits a person’s senses, movements or activities – and we wanted to challenge that definition,” she says.
Tonge and Channel 4’s group business director Olivia Browne say the broadcaster was also keen to give voice to a wider group of people following the success of 2012’s campaign.
Image: Channel 4
“In 2012 it was all about the athletes and showing that the Paralympics didn’t have to be second best to the Olympics. I guess now we’ve shown that, so this time we wanted to branch out – it felt like the right thing to do,” says Tonge.
“We’re broadening the meaning of superhumans so it’s not just about athletes, but people from all walks of life,” adds Browne. “A big part of our remit at Channel 4 is championing minority voices, and people who might not be championed on other channels, and this is very much a reflection of that. We want people to forget what they think they know about disability and challenge any prejudices they have.”
The ad was filmed over 12 days and shot entirely in the UK, aside from one scene featuring archer Matt Stutzman, says Dougal Wilson, who directed it. “It was a huge logistical challenge – mainly for Ewen Brown the producer, Shananne Lane, the Channel 4 producer, Eddie Pearce the location manager, and Jim Cole, the assistant director,” he says.
Image: Channel 4“We had to be quite strategic about choosing our locations so that we could shoot four or five in one day, but make it feel like the places were geographically varied. For example, MPC did a fantastic job of building new CG stands, crowds and a Rio background