Volvo Travels Through a Lifetime in 3 Minutes in This Showstopper of an Ad

Forsman & Bodenfors memorably pitches the XC60

Swedish agency Forsman & Bodenfors is well known for its Volvo Trucks work, including “Epic Split” and the rest of the irresistible “Live Test Series.” But F&B also works on the flagship Volvo brand, and this cinematic spot for the XC60 will go down as one of the most eye-catching auto ads of 2017.

It opens on moment of major reckoning in any child’s life—the first day of school. She isn’t happy about it, and her mother is trying to reassure her, suggesting she’ll make friendships that might just last a lifetime. (That’s red flag number one.)

Soon, somewhat incredulously, the girl is sent packing—she has to walk alone to school. This seems a bit harsh, particularly on the first day, but maybe that’s just how Mom rolls. It’s also necessary to the plot of the commercial, whose ominous tone—featuring a parallel narrative of a distracted young woman driving to work—looks to be building quickly toward tragedy. We have, after all, seen these kinds of ads before. See the rest of the spot here:

Given the remarkable production values, we figured the brand might well be headed toward some serious accident porn, à la A&T’s famous “It Can Wait” spot, from which this takes some cues. But no—as the end line says, this is about “moments that never happen.” Which makes for less drama, but certainly a happier ending.

It’s also just a beautiful thing to watch, with dozens of diverse and gorgeously shot glimpses into the young girl’s future that build meaning and empathy as the spot hurtles ever more quickly to its crisis moment. While hardly a revolutionary framework, it’s handled here about as skillfully as you can imagine.

In the end, the film—directed by Gustav Johansson through New Land—is mostly a grand product demonstration. But Volvo has a lofty goal that raises it above that, too. Some 1.2 million people die in traffic accidents globally each year, but Volvo has a vision of a completely injury- and fatality-free future. This spot’s impressive scope hints at that larger purpose, not just the specific auto-braking benefit being featured.

The vehicle here is the XC60, which has several new safety features. A steer support functionality was added to the brand’s City Safety autonomous emergency braking system. And a new system, Oncoming Lane Mitigation, uses steer assist to mitigate head-on collisions. Also, the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) has been updated with a steer assist function to reduce the risk of lane-changing collisions.

All of which should reduce the human factor, which after all is responsible for some 94 percent of traffic accidents.

“This film featuring the new XC60 highlights how important active safety systems have become and reflects Volvo’s leadership in this area,” says Anders Gustafsson, senior vice president for EMEA at Volvo Car Group. “We launched our City Safety autonomous emergency braking system as standard equipment in all new Volvos back in 2008, starting with the first generation XC60. Today, these systems are finally becoming an industry standard.”

In Sweden alone, Volvo says it has seen 45 percent fewer rear-end frontal crashes thanks to its collision warning with autobrake system.

“We have been working with collision avoidance systems for many years and we can see how effective they are,” says Malin Ekholm, vice president of Volvo Cars Safety Centre. “With the XC60, we are determined to take the next step in reducing avoidable collisions with the addition of steering support and assistance systems. At Volvo we take that extra step—we protect people inside and outside the car whenever possible.”

That commitment is made memorably clear through the eye-catching creative. And if more parents start walking their kids to school, too, so much the better.