Ad of the Day: Life Vest Inside

A tiny NYC nonprofit delivers one of the great feel-good spots of 2011

Headshot of Tim Nudd

The holiday season is swamped with advertising messages about peace, love and kindness. But this year's most triumphant feel-good spot isn't from a major advertiser. In fact, it isn't a holiday commercial at all.

It's this five-minute-plus video from a small grassroots NYC nonprofit called Life Vest Inside, whose goal is simply to encourage the spreading of happiness through small acts of kindness—as a way of combating bullying and teen depression. The spot, called "Kindness Boomerang," was filmed in Red Bank, N.J., and directed by Orly Wahba—a former teacher at Yeshivah of Flatbush who founded Life Vest Inside. Masterfully shot all in one take, it shows a chain reaction of random kindness, as strangers are helped—and then help others—through a bustling cityscape. It avoids being merely sentimental through the expert execution, and even achieves a strange power—packing more authentic human emotion into its five minutes than most corporate advertisers manage in a year or more.

The music, "One Day" by the American Jewish reggae star Matisyahu, perfectly fits the themes of the video. (The lyrics of the chorus are: "Sometimes in my tears I drown/But I never let it get me down/So when negativity surrounds/I know someday it'll all turn around.") And the spot's structure is sublime—bookending it with the same construction worker brings the message of karma full circle.

"Kindness Boomerang" was actually released this summer on YouTube, but has gotten a second wind after Wahba reposted it to the group's Facebook page. A duplicate version also went viral online this week. It's one of those rare creations—a great work springing out of nowhere from a tiny advertiser. It's also, inadvertently, one of this holiday season's most affecting videos. Pass it on.

Client: Life Vest Inside
Director: Orly Wahba
Music: Matisyahu, "One Day"
See full credits at the end of the video.

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