Resolutions to Look out 2022: Resolution 2

Think Character, Incident, Place

The word ‘storytelling’ is often used in the industry, but what does this mean in a 30 second spot? Mark Twain and the great animator Chuck Jones agreed that the fundamental ingredients for a successful story are character, incident, and place, and that everything starts with character.

You want your audience to feel like they know the character right away, which means they need to be unique, believable, and relatable. It helps if they seem to act spontaneously, have a good sense of timing, and can convey meaning with humour. It can also help to write a back-story for your character, particularly if you are planning to establish a fluent device. A character’s uniqueness is also what makes it such a strong and useful distinctive brand asset. Once you have your character or characters, put them in an environment and something interesting is likely to happen. Believability is as important for the creator as it is for the audience, and it is a combination of a character’s uniqueness and their ordinary struggles that make it believable. Once you have established a character, you can play with your audience’s expectations, by surprising them, or by setting up and delaying the fulfilment of the audience’s expectations.

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So, when you’re next reviewing a script ask yourself: who’s involved, what happens, and where is it set? If you can answer those 3 questions, you might just be onto something.

What about using a celebrity? Home-grown characters tend to be more effective and easier to control (celebrities change in appearance, can pose an unpredictable PR risk and can also work for other brands), but celebrities can be used to great effect and the trick is to get them to do ‘their turn’ or what they are famous for, for you, in a character of your own, rather than use them as a straightforward spokesperson. Celebrities help you to capture attention and the recognition they command can help you establish your character quickly.

From Look out, Orlando Wood, IPA 2019.

Mini how-to guide for using celebrities in your brand-building ads:

  • Celebrities can be used to great effect if playing a character or role. Testimonial approaches tend to be less effective.
  • Choose a celeb who is popular and widely recognised; actors, comic actors and comedians bring with them the necessary skills for performing in front of the camera.
  • Create a character for them (and if you can, with them).
  • The character should draw on the characteristics the celebrity is famous for. Use the recognizable gestures, expressions, or ways of speaking your celebrity is famous for.
  • The successful use of a celebrity in an ad can make it look as though the celebrity is doing a self-parody or ‘sending themselves up’; it is not bad thing to leave your audience thinking “what a decent type, how did they [brand] get them to do that?”
  • The celebrity should be so central to the ad that it wouldn’t work without them.

Tune in next week for our third and final resolution or

catch up on our previous resolution. 


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