Regular reviews of branded content to let you know if they’re worth watching.

Uber – Boxes | Unlocking Singapore
Published on 31 Oct 2017 at https://youtu.be/_6fjkAr1jH4

Last week I was invited, via email, to “imagine a world without traffic”…by Uber.  Intrigued I did that rarest of things and clicked through to the content, a new short film entitled Boxes | Unlocking Singapore, released as part of a broader campaign about unlocking cities.

The film is very short, 1’ 20”, and despite being about Singapore was actually shot in Bangkok, which was a little confusing.  I spent the first  30″ of the film trying to work out which part of Singapore it was set in before this shot revealed the true location…
Classic Bangkok wiring job

It’s a high concept piece that re-imagines the act of driving with car-sized cardboard boxes rather than actual cars – all the better for showing the angst, rage and frustration on the faces of the drivers.  At first they face common annoyances such as other kia-su drivers, traffic jams and the interminable search for a parking space but things are ramped up to absurdist levels as the boxes/cars are stacked on top of each other until they start crashing down on the people below, crushing them in the streets.

Speaking of which, the production team went to the effort of shutting off vast streets in Bangkok for filming (which must have pissed off some Uber passengers!) and were likely charged “surge pricing” for the Disney soundtrack.  It’s language agnostic, which works for the region, and entertaining but for me the central conceit doesn’t work.  It’s supposed to demonstrate how cars clog up our cities and drive motorists insane but isn’t Uber is responsible for putting more cars on our roads?  For it’s not the people with cars taking Uber, it’s the people without cars.  Those with cars are actually driving them more often now that Uber incentivises them to do so.

The video drives to a microsite with stats about how Singapore could benefit from less cars on the road, such as…

This is similar to stats in the UK that state that millennials no longer prioritise owning a home.  In both cases the survey fails to take into account that millennials in Singapore cannot afford cars, so they have no choice but to share or take (the excellent) public transport, and in the UK homes are out of the question for most under-40s.  But I digress.

I admire the surrealism of the concept, the scale of the execution and the bravery of the marketers that approved it.  It’s well cast – every character interaction works – competently shot and tightly edited.  I watched the accompanying “behind the scenes” video but that was less about the “making of” and more about pushing the message; that Uber is not a sexist frat house but just another Silicon Valley hero trying to “make the world a better place” by forcing us all to take Uber!

3/5

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