Try to imagine all the stories you encountered while growing up. You probably can quickly recount episodes of Land of the Lost, The Brady Bunch, or maybe Bugs Bunny cartoons. If your family made it to the movies, you might have had stories like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or E.T. in your story arsenal. What you might not recall is that Coke, McDonalds, and Maxwell House probably told you as many stories as Warner Bros did. Commercials were longer back then. It wasn't uncommon to see a 60 second commercial and 30 second stories were the norm for commercials. Today, our attention spans are shorter. 10 or 15 seconds has become the norm for commercials on television. 60 second commercials would be considered infomercials.
Of course, most storytelling in the form of commercials now comes to us through the medium of the Internet these days. Have you given much thought to the way stories are told through commercials on-line? Next time you encounter a video ad, which shouldn't be very long if you browse on a regular basis, ask yourself a few questions:
1) What is the narrative they are presenting? Do I notice any structural story elements in the video? Is there a catalyst? What is the problem (or external goal) the company is trying to solve with their product?
2) Could I have used the tools on my story utility belt to tell a better story than this company did about their product? The opportunities to practice our storytelling are all around us constantly. Learning how to tell stories that rival those of multi-million dollar companies takes practice and hard work. But it can be done.
3) Is the story about the product they are selling true? Will it deliver the results they infer it will? Stories are powerful. It's important we notice and remember how easily people can slip into behavior they never would have considered through the power of a story.
Diversifying your storytelling is important for writers in the new world of media. Sharpening our skills even while going through the mindless routines of our day can benefit us when we set down to tell a story we actually care about.
Keep telling stories,
John & Jeremy