If you could magically come face-to-face with your husband or wife 30 years hence, would that convince you to save for retirement?
There's no denying the emotional power of "The Beautiful After," an unusual campaign by McCann's FP7/DXB for Emirates NBD. The bank, a leader in the Middle East, hopes to encourage young adults to start building that nest egg.
In the ad, a group of typical young white-collar types receive calls from their spouses, who promise something "really special" for them at a mysterious location. Upon arrival, the unsuspecting husbands and wives are led through a kind of "time tunnel"—a long, white corridor filled with photographs of milestones in their relationship, including wedding photos or the day their child was born.
Then, as they step through a door at the end of the corridor, they come face-to-face with their spouses, who—with help from the makeup and wig department—have been transformed into idealized versions of their retirement-age selves.
There is much eye-dabbing as the couples embrace and, together, gaze at yet more pictures on the wall, which this time depict events from their "future lives."
While sweet, there is also something creepy about the white corridors filled with the benchmarks of life, a trope that can be easily used to suggest a near-death experience, with a door at the end leading to the hereafter (a bit further down than retirement, if you're lucky).
"The corridor was intentionally built as an immersive, intimate experience signifying a journey from one stage in life to the next," an agency representative explains. Regardless of interpretation, however, the imagery underscores the transient and uncertain nature of existence, and the need to plan ahead.
An accompanying social media program, #RetirementVows, encourages couples to make commitments akin to their wedding vows, complete with rings in at least one case—except for retirement this time.
"I have to plan for that day," one husband says. "And I wish to be as happy as we look in the picture."
"We got people to imagine and visualize their future life with their spouse, as if it was right in front of them, getting them to take a glimpse into their future and make a commitment to it," says the FP7/DXB rep. "We didn't want this to be a film with actors and actresses, as it would lack the genuineness in terms of the emotions, the reactions, the surprise and the eventual impact."
The film does a fine job of combining the surprise setup with the premature aging routine (The corridor schtick calls to mind Pamper's milestone moment for new Japanese moms, and the curtain-clad reveal is vaguely reminiscent of Dove's Real Beauty Sketches). Viewers in the target demo should easily relate to the intensity of feeling, and it's no great stretch to imagine them giving their financial futures at least some consideration (Even if the approach is not as instantly relatable as, say, UBS's fun campaign reminding you how old you are already).
During the Emirates NPD production, "there were quite a few surprising and funny incidents," the rep says. "One that really stuck with us was where the husband and wife had previously fought in the day, and both showed up in a bad mood. But when the husband saw his wife aged at the end, the tension dissolved immediately and the emotions were overwhelming. It was a beautiful moment and one of them told us that they realized that time was too short to spend being angry at each other."