This Heartbreaking Road-Safety PSA Shows How Lives Are Shattered Well Beyond the Crash

Bruno Aveillan's shockwaves of loss

"Nicolas is about to have an accident. He will die in a few minutes."

Agency La Chose Group took a slightly different route in dramatizing the impact a collision can have on the people involved in a new spot for France's DSCR (the Road Circulation Security Delegation). Directed by Bruno Aveillan, "Shockwave" takes us past the victims of the crash, Nicolas and Sophie, and introduces us to the ones left unseen. 

The work makes elegant use of slow motion to extend the crunch of metal and cascade of glass to a length that transforms an unlucky instant into a macabre ballet. But instead of focusing on the drama of the moment, the people you see flying through the debris, faces contorted in anguish, are not Nicolas and Sophie at all—they're the loved ones who will be hurt by the crash for years afterward. 

Watch the unspoilered version below, an AdFreak exclusive for international markets:

You likely gathered from the top of this post that Nicolas does not make out well, but Sophie doesn't walk away unscathed. She literally can't. "Sophie is meeting her boyfriend. She will wake up in a hospital bed … but her legs won't," the narrator says. 

Once the fates of this pair are defined, the kaleidoscope of living casualties begins to turn. "Nicolas's father will be the first to hear about his son's death. He will not smile again." The ad goes on to describe the heartbreaking reaction of his grandfather and his wife: The pregnant, anguished woman glides across the screen, surrounded by a menagerie of glass. 

As for poor Sophie? Her father "will sacrifice everything to make her walk again. Her mother will be haunted by the memory of her first steps." You'll also learn that her boyfriend will eventually propose, but that she will refuse … out of love. 

For those of you who know—and have been inspired by—a paraplegic in your life, the tone here can almost ring self-pityingly tragic; she did, after all, get the better end of this star-crossed deal. But all this is told in service of a point we don't always consider when buckling up at day's end: "Between each victim of a car crash, there are victims of life. Road safety. All affected. All concerned. All responsible." 

"I was immediately touched by the pertinence and emotional intensity of this campaign when I read the script," Aveillan—known for, among other things, directing this epic Cartier ad—tells AdFreak. "After years of 'trash' communications or fake documentaries [in the sector], I felt this angle had a rare perfection. Road accidents shatter lives and destinies well beyond the accident itself. That's the 'shockwave' effect, which can be so unjust and devastating, and the work's central theme."

"The death rate on [French] roads declined significantly for 20 years, from 10,000 in the '70s to 3,268 in 2013, due to government policy and efficient campaigns," adds La Chose co-founder and creative director Pascal Grégoire. "Unfortunately, in the last two years the curb has risen again," so the goal was to remind the French that this is still an issue. 

"Campaigns with alarming and shocking images have worked very well in the past, but today that's not enough," Grégoire continues. "Our idea was to show that behind every crash victim there are victims in life. … Because it's symbolic of the accident that could happen to any of us. No one is at fault; it's a 'real' story that we can relate to."

The emotional impact was also a big, and intentional, part of the action. "We can imagine how the members of our family, our friends and colleagues, would feel if this were to happen to us," says Grégoire. "Rather than showing shocking images, we prefer an emotional shock."

"From the start of the project, I thought of these films as 'mental projections,' " Aveillan adds. "I mixed multiple shooting and postproduction techniques to produce a specific atmosphere, somewhere between a dream—I'd even say a nightmare—and reality. But like in a dream, where the brain works by associating ideas like a collage, I used classic photography techniques to choose strong images, particularly in terms of depth of field. This results in shots that are both powerful and symbolic, with emotional resonance. That's what gives the campaign its strong, specific aesthetic." 

Thankfully, the shooting wasn't always so somber, as Grégoire can attest. "Everybody was wearing earphones because Bruno Aveillan likes a very quiet set—but we were shooting right next to the glass-shattering workshop!" he reveals, adding, "We used trampolines for nearly all the shots, and one of the world's best trampoline champions is part of the cast."

The work will appear on TV and in theatres, with support from billboards and radio. A couple of images from the shoot appear below. Just imagine a giant trampoline somewhere out of view.

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