Viral Review: Movistar’s ‘Love Story’ Is A Chilling PSA

This article first appeared in Campaign

Ad campaigns often try to instil a message in the viewer, and sometimes that is best achieved with scare tactics.

This is maybe most common in the realm of advertisements discouraging drink-driving, where the most shocking campaigns tend to have the boldest effect.

These can range from the grimly whimsical, like 2008’s ‘Superhero’, to the outright aggressive, as in Leo Burnett’s masterful stunt ‘Pub Loo Shocker’. A new campaign from Mexican telecommunications giant Movistar takes a similar approach, though targeted towards a different, and more insidious, threat.

‘Love Story’ is an intentionally misleading title, bringing to mind Valentine’s Day and fluffy romantic comedies. In fact, the three-minute spot begins in just this manner, charting the online romance between a teenage boy and girl who meet by chance over a social network.

Bored by homework and other adolescent travails, their relationship progresses quickly from chatting, to sending pictures, to organising a meet-up. Under this sequence, the gentle strumming of an acoustic guitar makes this all seem like a montage from a Richard Curtis movie.

Now, anyone who’s seen the documentary Catfish (or its reality show spin-off) will have alarm bells ringing. Indeed, as ‘Love Story’ progresses, we get the creeping sense that all is not right with this interaction and the young couple’s first meeting arrives with as much dread as anticipation. Is she catfishing him? Or is he catfishing her?

The ingenious, and tremendously creepy, answer is that they are both deceiving each other. In a final scene masterfully directed by Andrew Lang, the romantic illusion of the spot is broken and we realise that both the young girl and the young boy are in fact middle-aged men, looking to groom a vulnerable youth. As the two men pass each other, they share a grim and knowing look, before the spot cuts to them in their respective homes, returning to their phones.

As well as being a masterclass in suspenseful ad writing, ‘Love Story’ does not shy away from a difficult subject matter. As the two predators walk away from each other, a title informs us that 150 million fake profiles live on various social media platforms.

As with Havas Lemz’ controversial ‘Sweetie’ campaign, which actually led to the conviction of sex offenders in 2014, Movistar is using a sharp, emotive campaign to shine a light on the dark, sordid areas of the internet.

The video may be uncomfortable to watch, seeing its two young leads drawing closer to a dangerous outcome, but the message imparted is all the more effective for the spot’s unsettling delivery.

Produced by Y&R Mexico, the campaign has already been viewed several million times and is certain to start important conversations about the measures taken to protect young people online.