Commercials with narrative

If done right, commercials can offer more substance than many films

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Contributed Image

Commercials are probably the most annoying form of media. They appear whether you want them to or not, they play with your emotions and they are always trying to market something. It’s practically impossible to escape them. But no matter how annoying a commercial may be, you have to admit — when done well, they can be better then some films.

One way of looking at a commercial is as a mini-narrative. Though they only last a short time, a commercial is structured the same way a film might be.

You have the unsuspecting protagonist, the supernatural event, the opposition to the event and the conclusion. Some commercials do not use the standard approach to this structure, usually going for an avant-garde or documentary technique instead. But they are condensed films of those types nonetheless. Adding a narrative to the commercial makes the audience emotionally invested, even if it was only for a few seconds. It adds a sense of dependence on the company as well, relying on them to solve the conflict or finish the story that was presented.

In addition, a commercial could be remembered for its complete disregard for narrative, a good example being most Old Spice commercials. Other commercials such as those for 5 Gum rely entirely on their scale as opposed to their narrative. Just like film, the narrative styles of commercials are many and not all of them are traditional. But by standing out from the norm, a commercial becomes that much more successful.

What is remarkable is how commercials can appear as mini-narratives, yet still have their foot in advertising. Unlike films, commercials are exclusively designed to sell. They target everyday life and close-to-home issues and are specifically designed to impact audiences, not appeal to them. Films are catching up to this now but at the moment, commercials are in the lead.

Many commercials at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which took place at Princess Cinema two weeks ago, demonstrated the emotional manipulation of the audience to raise awareness of obeying the rules of the road or drug use on a very personal level. Even a phone company from Thailand was able to reduce the audience to tears with its tale of a girl and her father mourning the death of her mother.

With this in mind, it can be argued that commercials impact our lives much more than an average blockbuster by allowing us that short, bittersweet interaction with whatever issue the commercial brings up. They are capable of doing great things for the world, a few seconds at a time.

Click below for a playlist of the award winning commercials

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