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Shireen Qudosi

Advertisers Score Viral Ads with Winning Storytelling Formula (Part II)

Mar 21 2014, 03:00 AM by

Advertisers Score Viral Ads with Winning Storytelling Formula


Now that we’re acquainted with Freytag’s Pyramid, the formula used in the three viral ads we’re looking at, it’s time to see how the theory was applied in each case.

Save the Children’s “This is What War Does to Children”
Act 1: Exposition

Its purpose in laying foundation and opening the door to a wider sequence of actions, the exposition is made up of an opening where we see a young girl celebrating her birthday.

Act 2: Complication

A series of actions building the story in anticipation of the climax, here we have additional compounded seconds of her day that stitch a portrait of her life before war.

Act 3: Climax

War strikes London, a parallel world scenario highlighting the case for Syrian children.

Act 4: Reversal

The reversal is part mirror for Act 2, the complication, and part bridge to Act 5. Now that war has hit London, we see what this little girl’s life is like in the ensuing days. We can’t help but notice how it’s a downward spiral of the life she led before, growing grimmer by the day. Even the aid that we think would be of value has little effect on the disparity of her situation and the trauma she’s already faced.

Act 5: Denouement

Called ‘the release’, the denouement is often to spot in which advertisers try to drive the point home. A year has passed since the ad began and we see her now a year later celebrating her birthday as a completely different girl in a completely different world – with no hope of escape to home lost to war.
PSA for International Women’s Day
Act 1: Exposition

With no affiliation to or endorsement from Google, a team of London creatives set up a PSA ad highlighting domestic violence during a spotlight in this year’s International Women’s day. The premise includes a proverbial walk in someone else’s shoes – which seems a little awkward at first, but we quickly gain balance and stride along with this bright, upbeat 20 or 30 something woman.

Act 2: Complication

Walking in someone else’s shoes is a tall order, especially for an ad slot. The goal here is to get you to feel like her or at least relate to her. Advertisers don’t have the time for this, obviously, so they do it in round about ways. It’s the wardrobe choices, where she lives, how she interacts with others – all these details paint a picture of a young middle to upper-middle class woman who is happy, kind, trendy, and non-threatening. In a nutshell, she’s the girl next door; the girlfriend you feel totally at ease with.

Act 3: Climax

Here the climax starts by throwing us just a little off balance as the woman returns from her day out running errands and meeting friends. Everyone she’s engaged with, and everyone we’ve engaged with including her, has been positive. Yet, when she comes home we see her significant other at a distance (a new perspective separate from everyone else in the shot), and he isn’t responding. We know something is wrong and the climax hits us the moment he interacts with her, when he infers that she’s done something wrong that most others would see as an insignificant detail.

Act 4: Reversal

In this case the reversal lasts just a few seconds, from the time that he “greets” her to the time that the abuse begins. Recalling that a reversal is often a mirror of the complication, we see the stark antithesis here what we imagined her life to be like and what it is.

Act 5: Denouement

The PSA hits home here when our “eyes” into her life are knocked off and we’re watching her from one corner of the room – watching and unable to act. It may seem like a small detail but this in fact where the denouement (or the point to drive home) occurs. Like a fly on the wall, we see the horror this likeable woman endures, and we leave the ad shocked by our own ignorance in thinking that only a certain demographic of women suffer abuse when in fact abuse pervades these fictitious boundaries.
iPad Air’s “O Me! O Life!”
Act 1: Exposition

Pair a Walt Whitman poem, “O Me! O Life!” recited by Robin Williams (in Dead Poet’s Society), and with a very cool composition and larger-than-life images. It’s genius and it’s one of the few advertisements that we can’t help but get drawn into for its sensory stimulation. The exposition starts out with just slow introductory musical tones, and great sweeping images captured as if we were there experiencing these sights.

Act 2: Complication

The complication is pursued cinematically, with a blend of images and perfectly metered lines that flow seamless. In this case, the goal is to create the set up for the climax through lines that tell us why we pursue poetry, and how poetry is ingrained in to the fabric of what it means to be human. Note the continuing momentum of the music as new tones begin to be introduced.

Act 3: Climax

Bleeding between complication and climax, we have Whitman’s word. The images are now focused on the individuals – on individual feat and accomplishment. The climax happens right at the end of this point and at the beginning of the reversal.

Act 4: Reversal

We’re invited to “contribute a verse.” The images move more quickly, as if flipping through the pages of a book that’s mean to give us a scope into humanity, into art, play and creation (ideas and actions iconically associated with the Apple brand).

Act 5: Denouement

The concept is simple here. Williams leaves us with an invitation and the denouement, peaking with once again majestic view of a natural landscape as presented in the exposition. We walk away with an invitation to play; an invitation to create. As a Forbes article titled “Apple’s Latest Ad is Pure Poetry” summarizes it, “the company wants to show off why people love and use its products. They may be metal, glass, and silicon, but what you’re buying is experience.”

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