Campaign of the Year: Channel 4

Creating one of the year's best ads was a feat in itself. Helping to change perceptions of disability was an even more impressive achievement

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For Channel 4, the London Para­lympic Games gave the broadcaster the perfect platform to emphasise that challenging established views was a key part of its remit. It also sought to shift public attitudes to disability in general and disabled sports in particular, and get back to the real meaning of "para" as "equal to". Few would have thought that it would manage to do this so successfully.

Set against a background of indifference towards the Paralympics (only 14 per cent of the British public said that they were looking forward to the Games while virtually no-one could name a Paralympian), Channel 4’s in-house creative resource 4Creative sought to build up an atmosphere of anticipation and excitement.

In a bid to capture the Herculean efforts of the competitors and the odds that they had to overcome – physically and mentally – "meet the superhumans" was put at the heart of the campaign.

A ComRes poll in August had shown that nearly one in four people felt uncomfortable around people with disabilities, rising to nearly one in three among the young. In order to challenge perceptions, 4Creative decided not to shy away from the specific physical attributes of the athletes. On the contrary – it embraced them and showed the ways that they had adapted their bodies to their particular sport. The TV spot intercut the grit and determination of the Paralympians with a jolting insight into their backstories, some of which – such as a roadside bomb exploding on an army patrol and a car crash – were particularly breathtaking.

Preceding this epic spot was a series of 28 short films that told the stories of some of the individual participants. They provided intimate and personal insights and established a context for "meet the superhumans".

As the Olympics were drawing to a close, 4Creative also ran a simple but striking poster and tactical press campaign called "thanks for the warm-up" to remind people that London 2012 was far from over. This was also extended with stunts, with support from Jamie Andrew, a quadruple amputee climber, who scaled the Olympic Stadium to unfurl a "thanks for the warm-up" banner. In a bid to attract a younger audience, an online game was created that sought to find the next Paralympic event, bringing together street sports such as skateboarding, BMX and street-luge with disability.

While the "meet the superhumans" spot was probably the most memorable and striking part of the campaign, 4Creative’s mission to cut apathy and build excitement around the Paralympics, put them on a par with the Olympics as a celebration of elite sport and change perception of disability was a longer communications project comprising many touchpoints and strands.

And it worked. TV coverage peaked at 11.6 million for the opening ceremony, Jonnie Peacock’s T44 100m gold was watched by 6.3 million, 87 per cent of people who saw the campaign went on to watch the Paralympics, 56 per cent of viewers felt more comfortable talking about disabilities and 85 per cent of those who saw the marketing thought that disabled athletes are as talented as able-bodied ones.

Rather than just being "the bit after the Olympics" contested by people that elicit pity, the Paralympics became an event in itself fought by people who inspire and awe. And so, in the space of just a few weeks, Channel 4’s "meet the superhumans" campaign changed the way that people in this country view disability – hopefully forever.

Paddy Power

Paddy Power split the Campaign of the Year vote right down the middle and was an extremely close contender for the title. The betting company’s ads used to be just in bad taste without sufficient wit to redeem them. But since Crispin Porter & Bogusky took on its advertising, Paddy Power has developed some of the funniest and cheekiest work in the industry.

The agency exploited the tension between sports fans and sporting establishments with its "we hear you" campaign, inspired by gripes ordinary punters posted on Facebook. One such grievance prompted Paddy Power to turn its attention to chavs at Cheltenham this year. By attention, we mean an assassin with a tranquilliser gun. The resulting YouTube spot "chav tranquilizer" got 1.6 million views and lots of media coverage.

Another ad in the series, "ladies day", which asked viewers to spot the "transgendered" ladies among a crowd of racing fans at Cheltenham, was unsurprisingly banned from TV. But it was a big hit online and sparked a heated debate on Twitter.

In another stroke of advertising genius, Paddy Power sent five planes to fly over the Ryder Cup golfers to display Tweets from fans of the European team. The Tweets, designed to send up their American opponents, included cheeky references to Tiger Woods’ extramarital relationships, as well as gems such as "You can keep Piers Morgan" and "Europe has better hair".

The entire campaign helped Paddy Power deliver a 31 per cent rise in turnover on the same period last year, with bet volumes up 46 per cent and the number of active betters up 47 per cent. The brand’s Facebook and Twitter fans grew from 70,000 to 500,000 – the largest of any betting brand.

Other brands and ad agencies that talk about being brave and putting the fun back into advertising could learn a thing or two from Paddy Power.

British Heart Foundation

A final mention is merited for the British Heart Foundation and its "Vinnie" campaign by Grey London, which has been responsible for saving 28 lives to date.

Around 30,000 people suffer cardiac arrest in the UK every year, with only 10 per cent surviving. Grey used the insight that fear of infection was preventing people giving CPR – resulting in deaths. The solution was to teach people how to do hands-only CPR – chest compressions performed hard and fast and at the right beats per minute.

The result was a humorous spot with a serious message in which Vinnie Jones demonstrated CPR to the Bee Gees hit Stayin’ Alive, a long-form instructional film on the BHF website and a mobile app that helps demonstrate hands-only CPR. As CPR isn’t taught in schools (although many think it now should be), a version aimed at children was launched towards the end of the year. Called "Mini Vinnie: Harder. Faster. Younger", the online remake of the original ad taught that hands-only CPR was child’s play and featured a pint-sized Jones with mini henchmen.

The original campaign, which broke online before moving on to TV, won a gold at this year’s Campaign Big Awards, and a gold Media Lion and two bronzes in the Integrated and Promo and Activation categories at Cannes.

In its first week alone, it had attracted more than 53,000 shares and one million views across Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere.
Recent winners: John Lewis (2011); Nike (2010); Comparethemarket.com (2009); Hovis (2008); Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (2007)