This Charming Short Film Tells a Love Story Through a Series of Fake Ads

Ben Callner wrote and directed 'Adman'

TV commercials and romantic comedies have similar DNA. 

Their view of life tends to be bright, charming and not overly complicated. The storytelling is heavy on the pleasure and light on the pain. They mostly make you feel good, and don't ask too many questions. 

Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that Ben Callner's new short film—a mini romantic comedy told entirely through fake commercials—works pretty well. 

"Adman" tells the breezy story of a man who moves to a new city and experiences the ups and downs of love and loss. As the film progresses, each scene turns out to be styled as a commercial for a product or service featured in it—from a wireless carrier to pet food to (spoiler alert) funeral services. 

The resulting narrative has a lot going on, but has enough charm—through the sharp writing and directing—to hold together. 

Callner, who created the Doritos ad "Goat 4 Sale" that aired on the 2013 Super Bowl (as part of the brand's "Crash the Super Bowl" contest, wrote and directed "Adman." It was produced by his brother Adam. 

Ben tells Short of the Week what inspired the film:

"Years ago I saw two Super Bowl commercials air back to back; the first spot was a legitimate PSA about a recent natural disaster that tore at the heartstrings. The second spot initially appeared to be yet another heartfelt PSA about deforestation in the Amazon, only to then talk about getting good deals on bikini waxes and 'Brazilians.' It was supposed to be a funny misdirection, but came across in bad taste.

This unfortunate pairing of Super Bowl spots got me thinking; mainly, would that second spot have fared better if it was not immediately preceded by its own more serious, sympathetic mirrored-image?

I couldn't help thinking about context and meaning and the impact of commercials and who creates value and why do I think of my wife every time I see Kombucha and does a love for pizza define someone … like, why am I known as the guy who loves pizza? Basically, are commercials more important and impacting than we even know? And on the flip side, is that a bad thing?"

The Callners have extended the "Adman" experience to their website, where you can watch all the commercials individually. 

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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