Normally, I can’t wait to skip the ad in front of a YouTube video I want to watch. Loud, flashy, and selling things I don’t care about, I wait impatiently for those five seconds of the CF to pass so I can press “Skip.”
But recently, an ad caught my eye, grabbed my attention, and kept me watching for the whole two minutes and 19 seconds of it. Not only did it tug at my heart strings, but it also made me do a mental exercise, and encouraged me to change how I perceive the world.
The first five seconds shows a young man running frantically up the stairs of a subway exit to accidentally walk into an older man in a suit. He apologizes quickly as he continues to head away from the station. The older man looks at him disdainfully and words appears on a screen showing what the man is thinking: “What a rude fellow.”
The next scene shows an even older man with white hair on a bus, obviously disgruntled because a young girl is not giving up her seat for him, asleep or pretending to be. The older woman sitting next to her looks at her and thinks, “What an inconsiderate young woman.”
The next scenes shows another older man in a suit tsking as he walks past a younger man, also in a suit, throwing up in the street. He’s thinking, “The young these days have no sense of propriety.” Then the screen goes dark and the words “We weren’t like that when we were young…” appear.
These anecdotes of Korean life hit me hard and held be captive because they are what I experience and see everyday as a resident of Seoul. Commuting to and from work by public transportation, both bus and train, I myself battle for a seat and get pushed and pulled by other commuters. Walking home, I see people of all genders and ages heaving whatever they had for dinner from drinking too much. I’ve had those thoughts that the older people in the commercial had, although I am much closer in age to the young people. For me, the commercial wasn’t just about overcoming a generational gap, but also about understanding, sympathy, and empathy.
The commercial then goes on to show why the young man was in such a hurry out of the subway, why the young girl couldn’t give up her seat (she was actually asleep, not pretending), and why the guy in the suit heaved in the streets. The subway fellow was rushing to his part-time job, as the captions and images explain, because he needs the job to provide for himself while also going to school and/or paying back tuition debt. The young girl is also a college student who has to study and work long nights at a part-time job because like “67% of college students, finding a way to pay for school takes priority over actual school work.” The young man in the suit is drinking because he is depressed, receiving rejections from jobs and finding that the standards are just too high.
The male narrator of the commercial asks viewers to look again at the youth we look at with such disdain, to transform our misunderstanding to understanding, and to cheer on the young so that their 20s becomes a “happy time” for them.
The commercial is ultimately a self-promotion for the online shopping platform 11st and its “hope campaign” that takes proceeds from its profit to support people in theirs 20s in various ways. It’s selling itself but that doesn’t take away from the message it delivers: “Transform misunderstanding to understanding.” Let’s be slow to anger, resent, and disdain. Let’s look beyond our own preconceptions and perspective.
Watching impossibly beautiful and handsome celebrities trying to sell me stuff that is supposed to make me look as good as them is okay most of the time because I am so desensitized to them by now. Then something like this CF comes along to remind me why visual media can be such a powerful medium to deliver a good message widely around the world. Watch the moving commercial for yourself below and let me know what you think: did it connect with you as much as it did with me?