By Ruby Quince
Creative Superhero school
“Went on patrol in town of Ventor,” reads a recent entry from The Wight Knight in his log book. “Spoke to several people, including one lovely couple who took a photo of me and handed out four information cards.” The Isle of Wight can sleep sound tonight, knowing that they have a superhero watching out for them. The Wight Knight is the latest member of the Justice Alliance, a “superhero-themed neighbourhood watch” that started in the US and has inspired people to be the hero they’ve dreamed of.
Dressed in a ski mask, goggles and matching blue/black motorcycle protective gear, it’s quite clear that this slight chubby champion of the people means well. It’s not clear what his superpower is. I’m guessing that cider may be the key to unlocking it.
As we enter the final term at SCA and start to consider the sobering thought of having to earn a living, it’s all about making people believe we’ve got superpowers. Ad agencies want to hire the next industry hero. Portfolio day is superhero selection day. But how do they know that they’ve got a Batman and not a Captain Hindsight?
What makes a superhero in Adland? Certainly, the idea of great minds that will smash the old thinking and usher in a new dawn is attractive. But not in a Hulk smash kind of way, I guess. And do you really want a Batman, who can only follow his own path? Superman clearly has it all, so we’ll have him, but how many Clark Kents are there? As trainee heroes is unlikely that many will just stride in and flip the agency script. Surely is about fitting into a team.
Perhaps it’s about clearly defined special powers: Cast spells with copy; hypnotise the mind with attention-grabbing visuals; summon the innermost fears and desires of an elusive market and spin them into a frenzy.
We’re taught to be’T-shaped’ — brief but with deep knowledge in one area. That deep part is surely our superpower?
How do we decide on and convey this power? First, we need to be pretty clear what it is. It needs to bring something fresh that the agency hasn’t got, or got enough of. As much as we’ll want to be dick-swinging, it’ll have to be in a way that shows we can swinging it their way, and there’s room to grow.
Superpowers mean different things to different people. I suppose that number of awards won is one of the ways to gauge superpowers. To accounts folk it may be to inspire the client and get ideas over the line. I’m sure pitch-winning ideas is the universal power that everyone can get behind, and that’s probably where the broad part of the ‘T’ comes in. Of course, actually doing the ask in the brief — sell more X, get people to Y, stop people Zzzz — is the real power, and I bet there’s less razzmatazz around that. ‘Getting shit done’ doesn’t feel like a superpower, I guess, but ask any manager the people that do that are their superheros.
Easily my favourite hero team is Secret Six. A ragbag of mercenaries, some of them baddies, all of questionable motivation. Utterly selfish, but somehow able to rely on — if not really trust — their cohort. There’s a refreshing honesty about their adventures.