- Renault has released an ad to commemorate 30 years of its Clio hatchback.
- The spot tells the story of a three-decade romance between two women, beginning in childhood and continuing through the present.
- It's a lovely narrative, reminding us of what's changed in the culture since 1990, but also that cars can be our emotional, companions on life's journey.
- Say what you will about art and commerce, the ad's message is important and beautiful.
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The Renault Clio is one of those quintessential European hatchbacks that's been around since 1990. Renault has celebrated the car's upcoming 30-year anniversary with an ad that deftly captures three decades of life's passage, the emergence of a gay love affair - and plenty of tasteful images of the Clio that support the tiny, moving narrative.
We meet the car - and our protagonists - in the first-generation era, as a young British girl named Gemma is being seen off to spend time with a family in France (her parents own a red Clio). The French clan also has a young daughter - she: dark-haired, the visitor: red - and after some initial awkwardness, the two girls have bonded, with a ubiquitous yellow Clio in the background. The musical accompaniment here is a delicate piano cover of Oasis' "Wonderwall," with a female vocal.
We move forward in time, and the girls are young women. This time France crosses the Channel to embrace Britain. The friendship is renewed. Love blossoms. There's a blue Clio in the picture.
Back in France, letters are written in blue ink and signed with a name that has a "Z" and "S" in it (This was my best chance to identify the Frenchwoman, who remains somewhat mysterious). The English woman's father discovers the correspondence and isn't pleased.
Times passes again. The Frenchwoman weds - with her British lover watching in wan agony - but it doesn't last (the doubt on the Frenchwoman's face is obvious as her new husband drives them off). Next, we see her at dusk loading her belongings into a Clio and making for the Channel, exhaling, determined.
The pair reunite and their joy is intense and wordless. Soon, they're in a rust orange Clio, the latest generation, with their own daughter in the back seat, driving to Gemma's parents' house, where all are accepted. This two-minute masterpiece concludes with the tagline: "The All-New Renault Clio: 30 years in the making." Art and commerce rarely meet with such beauty and uplift.
The internet was rightly reduced to a quivering puddle of happy tears.
Whether Renault is exploiting a cultural moment to sell cars is up to viewers to judge. It is undeniable, however, that cars are part of our emotional lives, and that in 30 years of Clio, the humble hatch probably has seen plenty of romance, love, breakup, and reunion.
Advertising sometimes ups its game, and because a two-minutes spot requires such compression, the storytelling can be glorious amd memorable. The Clio ad reminded me immediately of Jake Scott's magnificent "Move" Nike ad for the "Just Do It" campaign, which in less than 1:30 captures almost perfectly the thrilling democracy of sports.
British Airways' "To Fly, To Serve" spot also came to mind, especially the aching shot of an early 20th-century aviator climbing into an open-cockpit aircraft made of wood and wire, thunder rolling in the heavens and he perhaps not to return, his family seeing him off to his brave duties while squelching their terror.
We live in a world where short videos are everywhere and never-ending, most not worth the time they consume, however brief.
The Renault Clio ad is worth your attention. Give it a watch: