Ad of the Week: The power of sudden impact [graphic]
by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki) Y&R Cape Town and Jason Fialkov of Egg Films have made in a short film for the road-safety platform of the Western Cape government. If you haven’t seen it yet, caveat videtor, this is a great but disturbing ad that will strike home hard. Really hard. At the very least, it should make you gasp or get the chills. [warning: graphic content]
It’s called “First Kiss”, and it is haunting. I know that road safety adverts require powerful messaging to make their mark, but this one hits so hard you feel like your gut has imploded. And it’s unforgettable. Maybe having children made this commercial more difficult for me to watch, but I realise that important messages need to be worked hard, in order to have an effect — to make a difference.
The right thing to do
Wearing a seatbelt is not just the legally correct thing to do; it’s the right thing to do. The injuries suffered by a passenger without a seatbelt will generally be far worse than those suffered by someone who is buckled up. Recent tests show that unrestrained passengers may cause injuries to other passengers, even those who are buckled up. The logic is based on science. If a car is travelling forward at 60km/h and collides with another vehicle (or stationary object), the bodies inside the car will tend to carry on moving at 60km/h. This is basic physics: Newton’s first law of motion.
A seatbelt goes a long way to prevent that person from flying around the vehicle, through the window, or colliding with other passengers. And getting hit in the head by someone else’s skull is like getting hit by a mallet wielded at full force. What this road-safety commercial is trying to express is that wearing a seat belt may prevent injuries, or save lives.
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But let me take you through the commercial, which begins with the title, “The First Kiss”, which appears at the bottom of the screen at the start. Once you’ve watched this ad for the first time, you’ll realise that this title proves to be ironic.
Poignant, heart-aching narrative
The ad’s story [and it is a poignant, heart-aching narrative] revolves around a group of youngsters at a party. The soundtrack is dominated by a romantic ballad. A young man and a young woman at the party are clearly attracted to each other but, each time they try to kiss, they are interrupted. When they first try to kiss, and it is a gentle, beautiful approach by both of them, they are at the fridge at a house party. But someone needs to get something from the fridge, and so they’re interrupted. Then they move to the stoep, but someone needs to get past and, just before they’re about to kiss, they’re interrupted again. Finally they’re at the car that’s taking them home — the driver of the vehicle is clearly in a hurry to get home, interrupting another opportunity for them to kiss before they part.
This rich, storied commercial is a realistic depiction of the awkwardness of young love. From the outset, these fresh-faced youngsters look as if they’re about to embark upon a long-lasting relationship.
But the two young lovers get into the back of the car and, once in the car, everyone puts on their seat belts, except the young man in the back seat. This man is the protagonist of the advert, who is too interested in the young woman he’s with, and so forgets to buckle up. Once in motion, the car speeds through the city streets and, at last, the two lovebirds look as if they’re going to kiss. The romantic music in the background builds to a climax.
Hits the brakes
Just before the their lips touch, the car is hit by something travelling in the opposite direction. And that’s when the advert hits the brakes and unfolds in heart-breaking, ultra-slow-motion. The sound that accompanies is the music but it is overlayed by the horrifying sound effects of an accident taking place.
As a result of the collision, the young man [the protagonist], is flung into the front of the car, his head intersecting with a young woman who is sitting in the passenger seat. Blood flies out of her mouth. His hand reaches out to stop himself from flying through the windshield, and at that moment the car is struck from behind. The young man is now sent flying backwards, his knee connecting the driver viciously in the head. Again, blood flies.
Ultimately he collides face-to-face with the young lady, who is bouncing forward as he flies backwards – the ‘first kiss’ of the title. Her head snaps back and the soundtrack suddenly goes silent and cuts to black.
Out of the black, the silence is broken by the sound of sirens and an emergency services radio. The camera starts on the face of a policeman, and tracks back to reveal the accident scene. “We’ve got four dead,” he says into the radio, adding: “They say the one without the seatbelt did the damage.”
“No seatbelt. No excuse.”
The policeman turns to look at the four body bags on the ground, and then turns away. The title that appears on the screen is: “No seatbelt. No excuse.” Under this appears #bethechange and the logos of Safely Home and the Western Cape Government.
The ad brought back vivid memories for me of an accident I was involved in as a teenager. I was in the passenger seat, and not wearing a safety belt. The driver lost control, going too fast around a corner, and the car hit the kerb so hard that I was flung through the passenger window, smashing it in the process. I was within inches of being crushed by the rolling car, but luckily I escaped with several broken bones (including my clavicle), cuts and bruises. But it could have been far, far worse.
Since then I have been the world’s most-nervous passenger — in fact, I’m a ‘let me drive’ kind of guy, and you won’t see me in a car without a seatbelt.
Safely Home is the road safety initiative of the Western Cape Government. The ad, and some of the content on the site depicting road accidents as recorded by CCTV surveillance cameras, could be considered ‘shock-tactic’ messaging. Indeed, the first time watching the ad leaves one with a hollow feeling, a sense that these young lives, with so much potential, have been cut short unnecessarily. But shock tactics may be necessary, especially when trying to get through to people of a certain age, who may be old enough to drive but still consider themselves ‘bullet-proof’. Youngsters who are saturated by information and who [research tells us] are more skeptical about advertising. To reach — and connect with — this audience takes a lot more hard work.
Neurologists will tell you that the part of the brain that weighs outcomes, forms judgments and controls impulses and emotions is not fully formed until the mid-20s. This is why car rental companies consider under-25s to be too great a risk, and insurance companies will load the premiums and excesses for these young adults.
Even though the ad is shocking, with its realistic effects and jarring twist, I think it may be necessary to get through to people who think that wearing a seatbelt is optional. The campaign was based on a similar campaign run in Ireland and Northern Ireland, that, according to publicity material released by Egg Films, resulted in a 100% increase in backseat-seatbelt wearing and 50% increase in front -eat wearing rates.
Shock tactics, maybe, but if this can shock a few people into wearing seatbelts, then I’d say it’s a job well done. It’s certainly has left me with an increased motivation to encourage seatbelt-wearing by my passengers. Message received, loud and clear.
Creative agency: Y&R Cape Town
Production: Egg Films
Director: Jason Fialkov
DoP: Willie Nel
Special grips: Kobus Verhoef of Gravitron
Stunt coordinator: Gideon van Schoor
Post-production and editing: Upstairs Ludus and Wicked Pixels
Media: The Media Shop
Ad of the Week, published on MarkLives every Wednesday, is penned by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki), the CEO of Ornico, a Brand Intelligence® firm that focuses on media, reputation and brand research. If you are involved in making advertising that is smart, funny and/or engaging, please let Oresti know about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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