Ad of the Day: Ford’s Risky New Short Film About Divorce Is Beautiful and Sad

Director Daniel Kragh-Jacobsen explains the unconventional content

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Divorce is a topic that's almost never explored in advertising. It's just too thorny and depressing. Yet it's also, of course, very relatable to plenty of people—and so Ford Denmark addresses it directly in an unusual three-part short film, by creative agency Very, that's beautifully made, if darker than almost all car ads you're used to.

Part one begins with a father and daughter having a snowball fight. But the girl's younger brother won't get out of the car, and we soon learn why. He's taking a stand—with the limited means he has—against his parents' impending divorce. 

The story then proceeds through parts two and three, as the family disintegrates—and then, due to a separate crisis, reunites, with some ambiguous hope for the future. Ford cars are present throughout, serving as meeting points for the family in their most trying times. There's nothing specific being sold here, though the message is obvious enough: So much of life happens in cars, so buy a good one.

Check out the film here: 

The work continues Ford Denmark's recent theme of "Success Against the Odds." (Other recent Ford films have focused on Danish surfers Oh Dawn, photographer Kenneth Nguyen and chef Søren Westh.) "Familien" was directed by Daniel Kragh-Jacobsen, who tells Adweek that Danes' high divorce rate was a basis for the concept. 

"We started thinking about how prevalent the car is in a divorce. It is both a tool and a setting," he says. "Ford's demography really is the Danish middle class, who do have the highest divorce rate in the world. And so we pitched this film under the banner 'Ford. Supporting families against the odds.' "

Kragh-Jacobsen wrote the scripts with his screenwriter, Ingeborg Topsøe, and admits there was always the concern that the material might be too dark.

"It was a main concern from the beginning, from everyone. But we had to try to submit our idea and see what happened," he says. "As you can see, the film is split into three sections, and each section has one small story which centers the car. To me it was just perfect, dark or not dark. It was about real people, and yes, the story is centered around a product, but the product is simply a prop or a setting, just like in a fiction film."

Kragh-Jacobsen credits Ford for being "very brave" and says he had total creative freedom.

In a press release, Ford said there were 23 percent more divorces in Denmark in 2014 than the average of the previous 10 years. However, "despite the difficult situation [in the film], one senses hope," the brand says. 

"Ford Denmark wants to focus on all aspects of family life, even if it can sometimes be challenging," Ford rep Lene Dahlquist says. "By standing behind a film that is based on one family's struggle, we tell the story that it may well be possible to achieve success against the odds."

Ford Denmark marketing chief Kristine Dam Jensen adds that the scenario is relatable and much more real that typical auto advertising. 

"We want to show our family cars in authentic environments and everyday situations that many can relate to," Jensen says. "The car is a rallying point for the family, even in difficult times like a divorce, and Ford Denmark wants to acknowledge families' struggle and show that the car can be a place where you get positive experiences."

Kragh-Jacobsen hopes people are attracted to the film "because they see themselves in our story. They can relate, and it isn't a glossy picture of the perfect family driving the perfect car. Whether this will influence them to buy their new vehicle, I'm not sure. I guess it is creating some attention around Ford, since they are trying something new. The most important thing for me is that our story resonates and is remembered."


Client: Ford Denmark

Agency: Very

Director: Daniel Kragh-Jacobsen

Actors: Peder Pedersen, Laura Bach, Bebiane Ivalo Kreutzmann, Pelle Falk Krusbæk

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.