Have you seen the TV commercial for Volvo S90 Luxury Sedan? You don’t realize it’s an ad until the last moment when the car maker’s logo comes into view. No spoken words about it can be heard. The only talk you get is a near-chant about feeling free as the actor Josh Brolin reciting an adaptation of Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road.” It starts like this: “Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road/ healthy, free, the world before me...”
Hollywood comes to Madison Avenue
New York-born Whitman was likely musing about his relief after getting out of the city with its paved over miles and throngs that crowd them.
You’re entranced by the sights of rolling hills and sounds of the voiceover intoning the “Song.” This ad was put together by Grey New York with #Hollywood movie people who never made commercials before, like directior Niclas Larsson (“Storm” 2005), cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth (“Gone Girl” 2014) and composer Dan Romer (“Beasts of the Southern Wild” 2011). After watching their effort, you’re left with the poet’s words in your head, an #Art experience and a desire to see the Volvo S90 Sedan up close.
Walt Whitman as car salesman
Maybe it’s because neither Larsson, Cronenweth nor Romer ever made a commercial before that it seems so fresh.
But even if it’s Whitman that gives the ad its distinctiveness, credit goes to Grey New York for making art and for using poetry. Volvo's Vice President of Marketing, Bodil Eriksson, told the press that the "simple beauty" of Whitman's poem is a good match for the car. Agreed. Kudos all around.
Valentine’s Day with a difference
More artfulness in advertising, again with great simplicity: this time from a dating app that projected a spare line-drawing on the outside walls of some buildings in Manhattan (Chelsea) and Brooklyn (Williamsburg) on Valentine’s Day. The drawing described the U.S. president Donald Trump sporting a baby bump and getting spooned by Russian president Vladimir #Putin, which rapidly went viral. Online jokes abounded like this one: "Putin didn't pull out of Crimea either." Alongside the nuzzling couple shown in their birthday suits was the logo for the app company called Hater, which is in the business of linking up people with mutual dislikes. It was developed by Brendan Alper, a comic who once worked for Goldman Sachs.
"There's a lot of tension out there,” Alpers told Business Insider, “regardless of which side you're on, We're just trying to make people laugh." Your ad did more than that, Brendan. You addressed the issue of Trump’s coziness with a dictator who meddled with America's election with an unadorned storytelling drawing and also managed to celebrate Valentine’s Day at the same time. Bravo.