In July this year Channel 4 launched an advert for their coverage of the Paralympic Games. I’m calling this advert Game-Changer of the Year because no other event, no other piece of media had as profound an impact as this did. Gangnam Style may have gone viral and conquered the world, but it couldn’t match this for impact.
I’m not writing this because I’d only just noticed the existence of the Paralympic Games – many years ago I’d worked in an area concerning mobility issues, and had the great pleasure of briefly meeting Dame Tammi Grey Thompson. But because these Games, and this advert lead the way, they totally smashed public preconceptions of disability.
Set to the thunderous track Harder Than You Think from rap legends Public Enemy this 90 second advert was the biggest, boldest piece of advertising I can remember seeing. This advert showed people – some with what some would normally consider life-ending disabilities – engaged in cutting competetive sport: brutal wheelchair rugby crashes, 100m sprints, amazing basketball shots.
In the midst of the sport, there were three rapid fire glimpses of human tragedies – a car crash, an army squad being blown up and a pregnant mother being braced for a shock. At a time when the Government was slashing disability benefits, and tabloid newspapers were labelling them “scroungers”, this was not just welcome relief, it was a two-fingered salute to all small-minded bigots.
This advert didn’t just advertise a sporting event, it redefined disability. It said these athletes are not to be pitied, because they are better than you.
Watch it now on YouTube (embedding disabled)