Prankvertising, which was all the rage a few years back but lately has been on the wane, returns with a vengeance in this potent drunk-driving PSA for nonprofit We Save Lives.
Created by Bravo/Y&R Miami and Paraná Films, the three-minute web video, "Reflections From Inside," features footage shot in two disparate locations—the men's bathroom of a bar in Los Angeles, and the RMC Correctional Facility in Lake Butler, Fla.
Yes, previous ad pranks have surprised folks in public restrooms. And several have used mirrors as primary props. Ultimately, however, those stunts were revealed as brand builders, touting high-tech wares, horror movies and the like.
Here, the tipsy bros gazing into the bathroom glass to check their look are in for a seriously sobering experience.
Watch the clip below:
As in most prankvertising, nothing is quite what it seems. Though the man in the mirror, Kris Caudilla, really is serving a 15-year sentence for the vehicular manslaughter of a police officer, he doesn't actually interact in real-time with the bar patrons.
Live broadcasting from prisons is prohibited, so the looking-glass footage was shot in advance. Through clever editing, however, Caudilla appears to have conversations with the guys he urges to avoid driving drunk and find safe transport home. (Neither agency nor client would disclose whether the patrons were warned in advance that something strange might happen at the bar.)
"We started by reaching out to about 10 corrections departments across the country" and searching through DUI manslaughter cases, agency creative director Federico Hauri tells AdFreak. "Our outreach led to a dialogue with Kris Caudilla, and it soon became clear that he had deep regrets and remorse that he felt would be important to share."
Indeed, Caudilla adopts the perfect tone; he's low-key and genuinely affecting as he tells his story: "One night, I was drinking out with friends … got in the car, drove … killed somebody. The man I killed was a police officer. He had four children, a wife, and I took him away from them. I made the choice to drink. I made the choice to get in the car. You don't have to make that choice."
The mirror serves as a potent reminder that every day, for the rest of his life, Caudilla will have to face the horror of his actions.
"He was perfect—so natural," says Candace Lightner, founder of both We Save Lives and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "I was a bit concerned about how my victim followers would feel when they saw this video, but they have been phenomenal, even sharing and commenting."
Another inmate considered for the video was nixed because "the prison wanted us to get permission from the victim's family before they would allow us to film the convicted driver," Lightner says. "I talked to the family at length, but the mother wasn't amenable—completely understandable."
The men's-room scenario "grew out of an insight that most people drinking and driving think it will not happen to them," especially men 25-34, Hauri says. "We thought it would be very powerful for our target to see a real-life example of someone who was convicted of DUI manslaughter."
This marks the second time in recent weeks that prison inmates have appeared in provocative PSAs. It's less intense and polarizing than the Polish Red Cross campaign in which convicted murderers are seen taking first-aid classes while in prison.
Still, We Save Lives tells a compelling story in a powerful way. Hopefully viewers will take time for some serious reflection and make smart choices when faced with situations where they might be tempted to drive after having a few too many.