Four Car Commercials That Really Have “It”

Juliet Rios, creative director at design/production boutique The Wilderness, offers commentary about some commercials that engage her emotionally.

Commercials by definition are paid advertisements. What makes some stick in my mind as memorable (mostly) 30-second stories is the visual language that drives the message and how live-action can be graphic. Having design as my educational foundation, I tend to emotionally engage with spots that tell a visual story as opposed to being dialogue driven. What draws me in is their simplicity and the way the audio is designed to inform the visuals, or vice versa.

Four Car Commercials


The first of these favorites is the visceral VW “Pink Moon” spot, directed by Dayton and Farris. What strikes me is the emotional power of their storytelling. The car, filled with party-going teenagers, lends itself to a loud experience, so the fact that that there is no dialogue, only facial expressions, is extremely powerful. The scene that summarizes the story is when arriving at the party, they look at each other and silently agree to bag it; the reverse light comes on.

Click on the image below to play the VW Pink Moon video in YouTube (HD)

The second spot is another for VW, “Synchronicity,” directed by Gerard de Theme. This spot, although abstaining from “typical” graphics, is in fact one of the most graphic commercials. The manners, body movements, actions and reactions of the participants
outside of the vehicle, juxtaposed against the confusion of the couple inside, makes this piece magical and unforgettable.

Click on the image below to play the VW Synch video in YouTube (HD)

The third and fourth commercials are so simple and visually graphic –- Honda’s “Cars/People” and VW “Squares,” both directed by Malcolm Venville. They are filled with subtleties, which makes them striking. The use of split-screen, creating symmetry, is a smart way to deliver the message while telling a story. As for “Squares”, the constant shape makes it feel designed and grounded. Oftentimes, there are so many components (motion, dialogue etc.) that you lose the story and there is no visual cohesion.

Click on the image below to play the Honda Cars People video in YouTube (HD)

Click on the image below to play the Volkswagen Squares video in YouTube (HD)

All of these commercials are visually based in a way that makes them emotionally charged, equaling an effective mix. The less dialogue driven, the more compelling, allowing imagery to create a pure experience for the viewer.

I still see commercials that intrigue me (for example Vodafone Germany’s “Escape“) but nothing has engaged me emotionally like the beautiful videos (non-commercial) done in conjunction with Radiolab (See their Symmetry video). They deliver messages of symmetry, words and randomness, so well. They let the characters and their actions tell a story that is so visually stimulating as to remain locked in my memory.

Click on the image below to play the video in YouTube (HD)

At The Wilderness, one main thing Gabe and I strive for is simplicity in our work. This basis allows us to play with techniques, the way we structure and organize things visually. We tell stories, for example, of time passing with the choices and range of colors. Another way we maintain simplicity are the decisions we make in our compositions; not overcrowding and overwhelming.