In life, there are certain situations when time seems to stand still. The euphoria of winning in front of a roaring crowd. The silent mourning of a funeral. The birth of a child.
In the Gold Pencil-winning public service commercial for the New Zealand Transport Agency titled "Mistakes," it's the split second before a car crash where we literally see a moment frozen in time. In it, we see the two drivers get out of their cars and talk to each other while the rest of the frame is paused. One is wearing a shirt and tie and is in a rush to get to work. The other has a child in the back seat and pleads for him to not strike him.
But then the inevitable happens, and the viewer is left stunned. For Clemenger BBDO's executive creative director Philip Andrew, the spot had to portray both sides' raw emotions in order to get the point across.
"While the anti-speeding advertising over the last decade had been successful in bringing speeds over the limit down, the effectiveness of what once had been a powerful and shocking advertising campaign was beginning to wane," says Andrew. "For the first time it was acknowledged that sure, you're a good driver, and sure you're only a few kilometers over, but you're not the only one on the road and other people will make mistakes."
The first-rate acting is what makes the spot believable. As it turns out, the two men appearing on the screen aren't even professional actors.
"Our director, Derrin Searle, did a wonderful job of rehearsing them and drawing out the life-like performances you see on screen," says Andrew. "We watched the very first take from a split monitor in a tent 300 meters away from the action. There was a great deal of nervousness in the tent that the boys would get it right and it would be powerful."
"We had spent hundreds of hours getting the script right and now was the moment we were going to see if it worked. The second they started we knew we were onto a winner. When the director called 'Cut!' there was a stunned silence. No one said a thing. We just looked at each other. It was an incredibly emotional moment."
The result was a spot that has been viewed over nine million times on YouTube around the world. According to Andrew, the message is so universal that 20 other countries have asked the agency if they could use the spot as part of their road safety campaigns.
"So while the ultimate measure of success for us is changing behavior and saving lives on New Zealand roads, if the halo effect is we reduce road trauma globally, that's even better," he states.
"Mistakes" is the latest addition to a long history of award-winning public safety work from New Zealand, where the government has funded the Road Safety Programme for almost 20 years now.