Blog | 03.21.17

Storytelling in Advertising

One of my favorite moments in advertising is when a company veers off from the usual :15, :30, or :60 video spot, and produces a long-form ad that resembles a short film.

Storytelling has always been an interest of mine. I have vivid memories of drawing cartoons and comics in my grade school books instead of taking notes. My friends and I could always be found huddled around the TV playing adventure-based video games after we got home from a long session of track & field practice. I even had a knack for making weird videos with friends when I first got introduced to video production back in my high school days. And to top it off, throughout my years in college, my close friends and I took on the task of creating at least two short films per year (some attempts more successful than others... hah).

TV-spots that deviate away from the “standard” time constraints are allowed greater flexibility with character and plot development. Instead of having to pack the entire set up and punchline into a 30 second window, the director and writers enjoy the luxury of having an extra three, five, sometimes even ten minutes to engage with the viewer. This thinking is similar to how TV shows opt for the 1-hr format as an alternate to 22-minute episodes (Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, etc). Each episode gives the impression that we're watching a movie, rather than individual segments. Because we are allotted a longer duration per episode, we can find out more about the characters' desires with the addition of detailed back stories.

Now this is all well and good for my personal tastes, but I know in this day in age of social media (with the increased popularity of 10-second Snapchats and 6-second Vine videos), the average viewer may not have the proper attention span to sit through a long-form video advertisement. It’s highly likely they’d stop the video after 20 seconds if it does not interest them enough.

But maybe we need to keep the long-form video ads going. I believe it provides a much more expressive outlet for creatives to let their visions come to fruition. By having the proper length of time for a story to develop, the viewer can gain a better sense of involvement and become fully immersed in the ad. Plus, there will always be people like me who are willing to watch them. 

A few years ago, my college buddies and I took on the challenge of creating a long-form video ad for Eastern Bank (which ended up being trimmed down to a 1:30 spot, so I’m not entirely sure if this even counts as long-form). We ended up placing 4th in the online contest, but it definitely gave me serious appreciation for the art of storytelling in advertising.