Samsung Flips the Script on ‘Can Do’ Advertising for an App That Keeps You Awake While Driving

To stay safe, just don't do it!


“Can do” spirit can only take you so far. Especially if you’re falling asleep behind the wheel—which can, of course, cost you your life and endanger others.

No matter how strong, bright or wakeful you fancy yourself, remember: No one can resist the sweet slumber song of Morpheus. When its comes to tired driving … just don’t do it!

That’s the message Cheil Spain delivers in the minute-long ad below for Samsung’s Copilot smartwatch app, which the agency helped develop. Copilot monitors various mechanical and human data, such as acceleration, time spent on the road and heart rate, to determine if you’re nodding off. If it detects danger, it warns you with a burst of vibrations.

Of course, such functionality isn’t new. Apps have been waking dozy drivers for years. Hats are even getting into the act.

Cheil’s film, however—directed in a stylishly sober but surreal style by Blur’s Martin Jalfen and Miguel Usandivaras—is notable for turning “can do” advertising tropes on their head to deliver its safety message.

From a driver’s perspective, we see an urban landscape punctuated by billboards for athletic gear companies, sports drink providers and apparel purveyors, with rah-rah copy such as “Never stop,” “Break your limits” and “It’s possible.” There’s a wall of political posters headlined “Believe” tossed in for good measure.

Scenes of conspicuous achievement follow. These include an epic street-baller’s slam-dunk; a cyclist with a single leg and arm emerging from the ghostly mist; men and women training hard with weights, punching bags and jumping rope; and most impressively, a guy balanced on another guy’s shoulders. (They’re shoulder-to-shoulder, people, with the top guy balanced upside down, feet sticking straight up into the air!)

“They teach us all to dream—that with effort, everything can be done,” a whispering narrator begins. “Determination overcomes any storm. The body obeys the unbreakable will. Humans without limits.”

As the achievers look straight into the camera, the voice grows colder, darker. “There is something they can’t do. Not the strongest. Not the fastest. Don’t try to beat me!”

At the end comes an on-screen wakeup call: “You can’t beat sleep when you are sleepy. That’s why we will let you know before it arrives.”

“A culture that taught us that it is always good to make an extra effort, that if we try, we can always win—it allows ourselves to do things, to evolve and be better,” Cheil executive creative director Joaquin Espagnol tells AdFreak. “But the truth is that there are some things we cannot do,” no matter how often mass-media beats the drum of invincibility.

“Studies say that the most serious and sometimes fatal error is that drivers believe they can beat sleep. They decide to make an epic effort to overcome sleep,” he says. “Unfortunately, numbers show that once the tiredness arrives, it is very difficult to overcome it. Even if you are the strongest, the fastest—once the tiredness hits you, you cannot beat it.”

To avoid falling into a commercial of vignettes, and to illustrate the problem in an unexpected way, Cheil chose to depict one long, continuous, increasingly dreamlike drive.

“After moving through the different situations, only at the end, the camera stops completely when the product appears, to reinforce the idea that you must stop when you are sleepy,” Espagnol says.

That effect’s a tad subtle to really register on first viewing. Still, the visuals and creepy narration are strong enough to hold our attention, and by the end, you can appreciate what they’re driving at.

Real hyper-achievers—in some cases, folks who overcame extreme challenges en route to success—star in the street scenes. These range from Paralympic cycling medalist Juanjo Mendez, who lost his left leg and arm in a traffic accident, to street percussionist Lorenzo, so passionately playing his pots and cans that his palms get torn and bloody.

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