Laurence Green: advertising can have its gold medallists too

A year later than scheduled – and empty as its arenas may be – human excellence is back in the form of the Olympics and imminent Paralympics, and with it some pointers for us mere mortals negotiating storyboards rather than diving boards.

In search of a soundbites or silver bullet, we often collapse our line of enquiry around human achievement to theories like Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours or false binaries like the FT’s weekly probing of the good and the great: “Talent or ambition: which matters most?” Both do, of course, whether we are pursuing athletic or creative excellence, and may not be enough even in combination.

Inspiration, focus, resilience, discipline and luck will all play their part if we are to reach for metaphorical gold. Double-jointed ankles confer an advantage only when matched with an incredible work ethic and mental strength.

And since life’s starting blocks are so haphazardly arranged – and some will face more hurdles than others – opportunity is of course the towering enabler of it all.

As in athletic achievement, so too in advertising, admittedly across a shorter cycle and geared less towards enduring personal (and national) glory than team (and brand) success. The work that’s made the MAA creative podium this month is long on talent and ambition, of course, but the product of so much more also…

BBC Creative’s ‘Tokyo. Let’s Go There’ trailer wears its many influences on its sleeve, but does so lightly. It’s giddily rewarding, an obvious labour of love, a team effort that – most appropriately – makes every second count.

Juan Cabral’s skateboarding spot for Facebook is textbook Cabral, all earthly rhythms and airborne ballet. For Juan – to paraphrase John Hegarty – creating work of beauty is a pre-occupation rather than an occupation, and he’ll have been in his element working with fellow artists.

And so, inevitably, to Channel 4’s ‘Super. Human’ and a lens shift this time around to the awe-inspiring resilience of the Paralympians and their quotidian struggles.

“To be a Paralympian”, it concludes, “there’s got to be something wrong with you.” It’s a line that only a brand like that could get away with, that might equally apply to Channel 4 itself, perhaps even to the ‘crazy ones’ more generally: the creative outliers who set off single-mindedly for gold.

Laurence Green is executive partner of MullenLowe Group.

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