Can commercials tell great stories?

Can commercials tell great stories?

Can commercials tell great stories?

And if yes, what makes a good story? 

And what are the barometers that help craft a good story in commercial making?

These days storytelling panders to the audience with the attention span of a squirrel, one that will swipe through miles and miles of content, double-tapping to their heart's content. That is the new status quo but that doesn’t mean it has to be. 

Think BIG. Think Hollywood. Think like a movie writer. 

That piece of content, or commercial, is all about storytelling—but enrich it by looking at it from a movie-making perspective.

In the world of filmmaking, we have a logline—a summary that is used to help creators understand the  essence of the film. The logline includes four key elements: Hero, Objective, Challenges and Conclusion. These are the tools that make an impact on your story and let it stand out from the rest of the algorithm-chasers. 

Here are six curated spots, some old and some new, that have used those “tricks up filmmaker's sleeves” to tell a story, and did it well.

Coca Cola – A Bridge for Santa

The hero of this film is more than a little boy—it’s that child watching, that inner child that still lingers and the sheer sense of joy. 

Great stories should be about the audience and the hero shouldn’t be your product.

That’s exactly what Fernando Gorstein et al capture with this surrogate character. 

The challenge? To have Santa visit his town. 

The obstacle? A broken bridge. 

The conclusion (without spoilers)? 

Innocence remains. Poetry in visual motion.

Philips Carousel

One of my favourite ads, ever. 

Extremely visual. The entire scenario is staged as a movie trailer. A powerful silent story of a crime, with many movie aspects captured minimally in a single moment in time. The technicality of motion control did the visualization justice. 

The conclusion separates this ad from the ordinary. 

If the motion control is the star player, the sound design would be the unsung hero that conveys the key emotions of the art direction. 

A whole logline conveyed in a mere moment, bravo Adam Berg!

And here's how they did it...

Saudi Telecom - The Man Who Couldn’t Handle His Handle

This film tells the story of Chris Rowland of New Jersey, who joined Twitter under the handle @stc, after his college St. Chris’ nickname. It gained him thousands of Saudi followers by mistake.

What did Chris do with that attention? He immerses himself in Saudi culture.

In an engagingly told story about cultural diversity and all the shock that comes with it: picking up new habits, receiving constant messages from foreigners, consumption of the unfamiliar to those around him.

After a heated intervention, Chris cuts himself off and embarks on a journey of self-reflection and realizes somewhere along the way he has lost his own identity. With STC’s expansion into Bahrain and Kuwait, Chris concludes that his fixation will only worsen and makes his way back home to family and friends; finally relinquishing his 11-year-old Twitter handle.

Apple – WFH

Does anyone do current social dynamics blended with human-oriented solutions better than Apple?

This story focuses on one word: relatability.

With the new normal well underway courtesy of the pandemic, working from home became the challenge that a team showcased in the film overcomes. The objective is to complete the project while facing the joys of #WFH.

The film concludes in a not so sugar-coated way, highlighting the stresses of working from home, acknowledging the very real difficulties 2020 brought us and how Apple products made life a little easier.

Johnnie Walker – Dear Brother

A forgotten trick of storytelling is not showing the product until after the ad has ended.

With the media consumption patterns these days, who in their right minds would want to spend a viewer’s precious seconds telling a story over getting to the point and saying “hey! Buy this!”?

Duo Dorian and Daniel did exactly that.

Focused on the journey of two brothers, they walk through the serene and breath-taking countryside, conveying the emotions through interactions, focusing on what’s more important than a timeless beverage.

Is there product placement? Yes. Does it take over the essence of the story? Not at all.

The chilling contrast created by the reveal, pitting memories against the present with the play on time, embraces the “keep walking” slogan of the brand, giving you a taste of what really matters.

New York Times – Life Needs Truth

This got over 10 million views across channels.

I won’t spoil this one with any preposition, but what I can say is that it’s a powerful example of telling a story in a minimal screen time environment.

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