Ad of the Day: Smart Car Takes on Cinematic Clichés in a Peppy New Campaign

Driving off the beaten path

Why do epic car chases always happen in slow motion? You won't get the answer to that, but the trope will at least be addressed in the latest amusing campaign for Smart car.

Created by BBDO Berlin and directed by MJZ's Perlorian Brothers, the ads tear a page out of the post-war Volkswagen playbook, positioning Smart's quirkiness as a feature, not a bug (pun!). Each spot kicks off with a car-based movie cliché, whose suspension of disbelief is broken when a Smart car pulls up alongside it. 

"Epic," for example, takes on the classic car chase. As the pursuing cops are frozen mid-arc, a Smart driver pulls up and asks what their deal is. 

"Epic car chases are always done in slow motion!" one cop insists. 

"Uh-huh," the Smart driver says, considering this. "That's a bit cliché." And unbound by the laws that bind his brothers in blue, he wheels off for a donut. 

"The brand's attitude is to question the status quo," BBDO Berlin executive creative director Michael Schachtner tells Adweek. "Why do we need huge cars when we drive alone most of the time? Why do you need an off-road SUV when you live in the city? Why does a car have to be a symbol of status and prestige instead of just being practical? Why do epic car jumps need to be in slow motion?"

In the second ad, "Everything Is Nothing and Nothing Is Everything," we find ourselves in a black-and-white French film, where clichéd platitudes about the meaning of life fall as heavily as the impending rain. 

"One cannot simply discuss the meaning of life in happy, rainbow colors," says the lady to the Smart driver.

"C'est très sérieux"—it's very serious—her companion adds.

"That's very cliché," our hero tells them. Then, in almost willfully wince-worthy French, he adds, "Au revoir!" before speeding off, leaving them under their own personal raincloud. 

The message is straightforward. Each ad wraps with the tagline "Anything but cliché," and invites users on a free test drive. Models seen here include the Smart Fortwo (for, well, two people) and the Forfour (for four—you get how this works, right?).

"Clichés are the epitome of the tried and trusted, of preserving the status quo instead of breaking fresh ground—a thing Smart has stood for since its first car," Schachtner continues. "That's why we used the most common and over-the-top clichés and made Smart interrupt these situations, making their protagonists question their super conventional behavior." 

In terms of whom he hopes is listening, you might recognize a few suspects on the road (if you aren't one already)—"the bachelor who drives an impractical sports car, the soccer mom with the inevitable van, or the hedge fund manger with his luxury SUV," Schachtner says.

But while the idea lends itself easily to future iterations, the creative director is staying mum, saying only that there are "no plans" for others—yet. 

Since this is all about breaking the fourth wall, the Perlorian Brothers also sent along some neat behind-the-scenes images, shown below. They also shared a few fun facts. 

"The police car jump was filmed with seven cameras—three super-high-speed Phantoms running at 650 frames per second, and four regular Arri motion-picture cameras, running at 120 frames per second," they say. 

"We shut down central Sofia, Bulgaria, on a Sunday morning to do the stunt. Everything else was filmed on an enormous New York City replica in Sofia." 

As for the second ad, "The actors in the faux French New Wave film are actually bonefide French actors cast in Paris"—Thomas Vernant and Katia Miran. 

The cops in the car chase include Zach Myers (with the cool shades) and Tomike Ogugua at the wheel. In both, the Smart driver is played by David Gironda Jr.

"A lovely and talented cast, each and every one," the Perlorians beam.