A friend showed me a very powerful commercial today. I was sitting in my office and he dropped in for a quick chat. Periodically we push creative resources back and forth at each other. It's great fun and I always benefit way more than he does...
Anyway, in the course of our conversation he directed me to YouTube and had me do a search for "best seatbelt ad."
Wow. He was not kidding and I was not prepared. And from that point on, a funny set of circumstances unfolded. You see I was sitting there watching this ad and he was standing directly behind me. As the ad played out, I began to cry. Then another person walks into my office - my back is now to the both of them and I've got tears streaming down my face - and this person who has just walked in is introducing himself to me, wanting to meet me and...nice. Nice to meet you.
But it was fine. Actually it was nice to meet him under those circumstances: no pretense, what you see is what you get, and all that...
And besides, I am quite happy to be so moved, especially when the whole point of the advertisement is to effect an emotional response that incites a change in behavior. Recently there has been a morbid seat-belt ad running in New Zealand where a guy crashes his car and kills his passenger. Blood is dripping on the surviving guy and when he looks around and finds his dead passenger's eyes blankly fixed on him, he begins to repeatedly scream, "Quit staring at me!" It is just horrible.
Now, compare that description with this.
That is an effective advertisement. Don't you think?
Of course, this ad is not only effective, it is affective, too. Why? Am I moved because I love seat-belts so much and this ad preaches the gospel of seat-belts so efficaciously? Of course not. Rather at a certain point this ad becomes about more than seat-belts. It taps something deep and true and important in me, something for which seat-belts are a signifier. I am moved to tears by a power and beauty for which this ad is merely a sign.
For me, this ad is powerful because it is about the ways our lives propel us forward, the ways we make decisions and do things and how, in the course of it all, we are unexpectedly sideswiped by events and circumstances that we cannot see coming - or control, even if we could. The power of this ad is captured in the beautiful image of those small, yet strong, hands interlocked around their beloved as all hell breaks loose about him. And perhaps most importantly, it reminds me how grateful I am to love and be loved, to grasp and be grasped - by my family, my friends, my communities of faith near and far, small and large.