Ad of the Day: Would You Act If You Were in Imminent Danger? Maybe Not, Says This Ad

Social experiment has a pressing point to make

If you were alone in a room that started filling with smoke, you'd take the cue and make a hasty exit, right? But if you were in the room with a group of full of strangers, you might react differently to that same immediate danger—depending what others do.

A new ad recreates a classic social psychology experiment on bystander apathy, the phenomenon that people are less likely to act in a crisis if others present are doing nothing.

The three-minute video, which you can watch below, suffers from the melodrama common in many reality-style ads. But the payoff makes a direct and powerful point: If the danger is so clear, why aren't you doing more?

Spoilers below.

Global warming is an obvious and imminent threat that's already wreaking havoc in some communities. But this ad, from the environmental group Defend Our Future, doesn't really tap into the audience's lizard brain and strike fight-or-flight nerves the same way an approaching inferno would.

In other words, however clever the approach, it seems more suited to observational musing than lighting a fire under those content to keep living life as if the human race weren't engineering a far less habitable planet, largely by inertia and indifference.

It's certainly notable enough to spark conversation, and hopefully some action. The organization is challenging would-be-participants to commit to using reusable water bottles (perhaps a Bobble, if you'd like some snark with your purchase), start a bike share or write a letter to a governor.

Though any one of those things might be asking too much of someone who'd rather breathe through a shirt than leave a room thick with fumes.


Client: Defend Our Future

Director: Martin Stirling

Production Company: Partizan

Editor: Ben Jordan, Work Edit

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.
Publish date: November 19, 2015 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT