Am I Watching a Car Ad or a Short Film?
I know I am not alone when I say there have been commercials where I ask myself, “What was that about?” It’s not that the ad was bad, but it’s “what was it trying to tell me, what was it trying to advertise?” Well, I had one of those experiences again and, boy, it had me thinking a bit more than it should have.
In late April, the creative agency HumanSeven released an ad for the French automotive manufacturer Citroën. According to the YouTube page for the ad, the agency had been looking into different ways of working with a focus on alleviating pressure and finding the right partners to encourage creativity and (artistic) freedom. Somewhere along the way the Citroën Forward project was born.
The agency pitched an idea about man versus nature with only his Citroën car to help. What followed, said HumanSeven, was a “hybrid piece of work which is hard to identify or even name: in short an unidentified advertising object.” That explains why I’m confused.
Here’s where this project excelled…
1. Well Made – This ad was very well made. Sophie Levy’s direction was guided and thoughtful, as if this was an actual film. The cinematography by Nicolas Desaintquentin and color by Arthur Paux were gorgeous. Both caught the breathtaking scenery where the action took place. The editing by Sophie Levy and Nicolas Capus was crisp and easy to follow. And heck, even the story! It had my interest piqued as to what the protagonist was doing and what was his end goal. It had all the skill found in a great short film.
2. MacGyver Moments – The protagonist, portrayed by Carloto Cotta, struck me as a pretty smart cookie. I would never have been able to come up with those ideas, which I can best describe as MacGyver moments. I had no idea where the story was taking me, but I did get a kick out of all his ingenious ideas.
Here’s where this project got stuck…
1. The Point – What was it all about? For five minutes I watched a man dissemble his car, use darn near every part in a clever, engineering way, but to … build a rope bridge across a ravine? What the? Was the ad telling me the car is more than just transportation; it’s an engineering wonder? Was it telling me Citroën is a forward thinking company that is looking to push the abilities of cars further or that its employees and automakers are like MacGyver and are silent geniuses? Or, was this a clever use of an ad to make a short film or vice versa? What this even an ad? Usually, with ads, something is being advertised and good ads let you know what is being advertised, but this one did neither. Remember, Humanseven described this as a “hybrid piece of work which is hard to identify or even name: in short an unidentified advertising object.” Well, I’m thinking it was an ad, due to this shot at 0:38, but that is as far as I’ll go.
This ad or short film or short film-ad hybrid was a well-made piece of filmmaking … or advertisement, but beyond the skill involved in making it, I had no idea what the point was. Despite all of its visual splendor and skill, the meaning was lost on me. If you’re an ad, your main goal is to advertise your message—which Citroën’s Forward Project did not.