Volvo’s two-year experiment in fractured, “nonlinear” narratives has already taken us from a New England lighthouse to the Arizona desert. Now, its final larger-than-life chapter leaves the Earth’s atmosphere behind while encouraging viewers and car buyers to embrace the future … whatever it might bring.
To tell the tale of a female astronaut, her husband and their brand new XC-60, Grey New York turned to Catherine “Cady” Coleman. The NASA veteran spent more than six months on the International Space Station in 2011 before advising Sandra Bullock on the film Gravity, and her insights helped draw a fuller picture of one woman taking a bold step into the beyond.
Like the previous two installments in this series, “Wedding” and “Song of the Open Road,” Volvo teased the new campaign with a series of cryptic 15-second spots that aired in no particular order and left viewers guessing. For example, the only hint that the first clip provided as to the ultimate direction of the narrative was the fact that the man briefly looks up into the sky while driving.
The full film, below, reveals the story of an astronaut’s trip to space and back, and her communications with her husband and herself throughout the journey.
Grey executive creative director Matt O’Rourke told Adweek that the Coleman connection came about when a music producer working on the campaign in its conceptual astronaut-and-husband phase said, “I have a cousin who’s also an astronaut. Do you want to talk to her?”
Coleman and copywriter Marisa Milisic ultimately collaborated to write the astronaut’s speech at the center of the film.
“I’ve hired consultants on other projects, but they’ve never been so involved or influential over the story we’re telling,” O’Rourke said. “It’s hard not to be inspired when you’re on the phone with an astronaut.”
The protagonist’s experience in the ad is not unlike Coleman’s own 20-plus-year stint as an astronaut. “I wanted to say it’s normal to have a family and be an astronaut,” she told Adweek. “You can be you and do the job that you dream of.”
O’Rourke said this spot most likely marks the end of this particular experiment with nonlinear narrative, but that he wants Volvo to keep exploring new forms of storytelling.
“My guess is we will be shifting gears, trying something new,” he said. “The [auto] category has gotten more into creating universes as opposed to single spots, and I want to keep pushing it,” he said. “It’s cool to see more brands and agencies exploring that model, because it makes TV more interesting to watch as opposed to 30 seconds of us talking about ourselves.”
The new film also includes at least one Easter egg for fans who obsessed over “The Wedding” on Reddit. At the 1:19 mark in the video, one can clearly see that the astronaut’s parents are the same couple from the 2016 ad.
“I see media as powerful vehicle to create change,” Coleman said when asked about the meaning she drew from working on the campaign. “What if a 9-year old girl watches a program about the Space Station and doesn’t see anyone that looks like her? I wanted girls to watch this broadcast and be able to see themselves there. When you see yourself in the present, you can see yourself in the future.”
See “Wedding” and “Song of the Open Road” below. Credits for “Embrace the Future” are below that.
Campaign: “Embrace the Future”
Agency: Grey New York
Chief Creative Officer: John Patroulis
Executive Creative Director: Matthew O’Rourke
Art Director:Mike Lubrano & Neil MacLean
Copywriter: Chris Hanrahan
Speechwriter: Marissa Milisic
Astronaut: “Cady” Coleman
EVP, Account Director: Janique Helson
VP, Account Director Dario Cosmelli
Townhouse Head of Integrated Production: James McPherson
Townhouse Exec. Producer: Alison Horn
Townhouse Integrated VP Producer: Angela Ong
Townhouse Intregrated Print Producer: Sarah Guidotti
Townhouse Music Producer: Ben Dorenfeld
Production Company (location): Biscuit
Director: Dan DiFelice
Director of Photography: Jeff Cronenweth
Editors: Micah Scarpelli and Alvaro Del Val, Uppercut NYC
Music/Sound Design: Keith Reynaud, Heard City
Actors: Doug Rao, Sonita Henry