Makers of the Famous ‘Dear Brother’ Johnnie Walker Spec Ad Just Made a Volvo Ad to Die For

Also spec, but the automaker gave the green light

Death becomes them.

Filmmakers Daniel Titz and Dorian Lebherz came to prominence last year with the breathtaking "Dear Brother" spec ad for Johnnie Walker. That spot, with 7 million views across all platforms, put an evocative spin on the concepts on brotherly love, freedom and the ties that bind this world to the next.

Now, the creative duo, students at the Film Academy of Baden-Württemberg in Germany, return with another stylish meditation on matters of life and death. Unlike their Johnnie Walker ad, with its ethereal, poetic vibe, this new spot traffics in stylish black humor to play up the safety advantages of Volvo's Autonomous Driving system.

Is it spec? You bet your life it is. That said, the directors got Volvo's blessing before going ahead. "We contacted Volvo to ask about some of their brand new models," Lebherz tells AdFreak. "We knew that was a little risky with that script, but we wanted [to show] a car that had not been released at that time. And actually, we were a little bit surprised when they told us it was OK."

Heck, as long the car doesn't kill anyone—and the fleabags don't get flattened—why should Volvo object?

Aiming for an English-village feel, the team shot for two days in Ludwigsburg, near the film school in Stuttgart, and took great care getting the tongue-in-cheek music just right.

"It took a lot of time finishing the song," says Lebherz. "At the beginning, we had thought of a child's song with a kid singing the ABCs. [Music house] Yessian produced it, but it didn't work at all, as you totally lost empathy for the people living in the village. After trying out different tracks, the idea of an old Frank Sinatra-type song came up."

With about 25,000 YouTube views in its first few days online, "ABC of Death"—which owes a conceptual debt to Edward Gorey's book The Gashlycrumb Tinies—has a long way to go to catch last year's "Dear Brother," which generated 4 million views on that site alone.

"Dear Brother" won't be getting anymore eyeballs there in the short term, however, as the site recently removed the clip after a producer in England complained that Titz and Lebherz stole their idea. The German duo deny that and are working to get their film reinstated.

So, for now, on YouTube, "ABC of Death" will have to represent the pair's affinity for morbidity. Meanwhile, this recent Aldi ad (work for a paying client) finds the directors enthusiastically embracing life.


Volvo, "ABCs of Death" (Spec)

Concept: Dorian & Daniel

Directors: Dorian & Daniel

Director of Photography: Jan David Günther

Producers: Celina Finger, Madlen Folk

Production Design Mona Otterbach

Editor: Raquel Caro Nunez

Music: Yessian Music

Composers: Ralf Denker, Ingmar Rehberg

Sound Design: Marvin Keil

Join the foremost brand marketers, such as Marc Pritchard, Brad Hiranaga, Kory Marchisotto and more, for Brandweek Masters Live on Sept. 14-17. Secure your pass and learn from the brand masters.

@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.
Publish date: October 27, 2016 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT