AT&T’s New ‘It Can Wait’ Ad Tells the Quietly Tragic Story of a Would-Be Football Star

What Fletcher Cleaves lost

"Fletcher's Drive" is the latest entry in AT&T's "It Can Wait" campaign, which warns against texting, web-surfing, emailing and other forms of potentially dangerous smartphone use while driving. ESPN CreativeWorks, the cable network's in-house agency, crafted the six-minute film, which focuses on former high-school football star Fletcher Cleaves. Six years ago, as Cleaves was preparing to attend Lambuth University on a gridiron scholarship, his life was tragically altered when he was paralyzed from the chest down as the result of an automobile crash.

"All I saw was the glow from the phone on the other driver's face," he says in the video.

It's a chilling detail in a production that follows Cleaves via home-movie footage and re-enactments through a physical rehabilitation process far more agonizing—both physically and emotionally—than the hits he absorbed on the playing field. At one point, his father lifts him out of a wheelchair and carries him into a van, a profound contrast to pre-crash footage of the young man catching and carrying the football as a member of Memphis' Cordova High School Wolfpack.

"Fletcher's Drive" takes a more straightforward road to its destination than the campaign's last lauded short film from BBDO, which showed a brutal crash in reverse. That said, this new PSA is no less riveting and deftly succeeds at conveying its heartfelt message.

The story ends on a hopeful note—Cleaves recently graduated from college and now lives on his own. Even so, director Miles Jay's subdued approach, with muted colors and a melancholy soundtrack, reminds viewers how much can be lost and how devastatingly lives can change, forever, in the instant it takes for a driver to check his or her phone.


Client: AT&T

Agency: ESPN CreativeWorks

Writer/Producer: Ata Movassaghi

Creative Director: Jay Marrotte

Account Director: Christina Carey-Dunleavy

Vice President: Carrie Brzezinski

Production Company: Smuggler

Executive Producers: Patrick Milling Smith, Brian Carmody, Allison Kunzman

Producer: Erin Wile

Director: Miles Jay

DP: Jason McCormick

Editorial: WORK

Editor: Ben Jordan

Executive Producer: Erica Thompson

Senior Producer: Sari Resnick

Assistant Editor: Adam Witten

Music: Rob Simonsen, Composer

Produced by: Rob Simonsen and Taylor Lipari-Hassett

VFX: ArtJail

Executive Creative Director: Steve Mottershead

Head of Production: John Skeffington

Compositor: Joey Deady

Compositor: Ben Vaccaro

Sound Design & Mix: Barking Owl

Sound Designer:  Michael Anastasi

Creative Director: Kelly Bayett

Associate Producer: KC Dossett

Mixer: Patrick Navarre

Color Grade: Company 3

Senior Colorist: Tom Poole

Producer: Clare Movshon

Online/Finishing: Blacksmith

Flame Artist: Iwan Zwarts

Executive Producer: Charlotte Arnold

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.