Last year, AT&T and BBDO New York shocked viewers with the "Close to Home" ad, which depicted how one caring mother's simple moment of distraction devastated many. A gripping new film, "The Unseen," continues to promote mobile users' safe behavior through the eyes of a typically responsible father who mindlessly lets his guard down while alone on the road, leading to harrowing consequences.
The three-minute plus video captures a day-in-the-life of a loving family. Dad drives his three daughters to the local pool, while Mom is at home, where she discovers the family dog Muffin has once again disappeared. In the car, the kids make their noisy merriment, as kids do, and the father tries to stay focused while enjoying their company. His wife, concerned about Muffin, keeps ringing and texting, but good papa that he is, he consciously lets those go since the little ones are in the car.
Having dropped off the kids, the father remains vigilant, even ignoring another call because he sees a neighbor on the street coming out to get his mail, and then, there's a surprise -- a stowaway in the back seat, a young boy. For a moment, the dad is a bit confused, and so are we -- where did he come from? But things proceed as normal and the man and boy have a pleasant chat about everyday things like soccer and school. Dad continues to ignore his phone because of his little passenger, but then it all then takes a supernatural turn -- one that explains what the boy was doing there in the first place, and likely, will jolt viewers once again.
The new ad continues the company's "It Can Wait" campaign, which has been running for six years and also included a heartbreaking documentary film from acclaimed director Werner Herzog. According to AT&T Assistant VP-Advertising Sandra Howard, the latest work hinges on a powerful piece of insight: "We found that when someone is in the vehicle with others, they feel a responsibility for those who are there with them and demonstrate very good behavior because of the people in their care," she said. "But those same people will actually have no issue driving distracted when they are alone. When you're alone, you almost feel like you're in a bubble and you don't think you're putting anyone in danger."
"We talked about how this behavior has become insidious -- we all understand that it's a dangerous and terrible thing to do, but humans are really good at tricking themselves that they can do it," added BBDO ECD Matt MacDonald. "The fact that they self-justify is what we wanted to tackle head-on."
To direct, the team once again tapped Anonymous Content's Frederic Planchon, known for his impactful, emotional storytelling. One tricky part of the project was delivering the message without letting its (SPOILER ALERT) metaphysical elements get in the way. "There were a few different ways we could play it," said Mr. MacDonald. "Ultimately we wanted to make it not seem like the 'Sixth Sense.' Ostensibly, the kid could have jumped in the car at the pool, one of those crazy things that can happen. We had another version that played it a little more supernatural, but that took away from the ending."
Read the full story behind the work on Adage.com.