On Brand Screenwriting.
Today’s post might come a bit odd when compared to previous ones, slightly relaxed, “weekendish” but still thoughtful and useful.
The purpose will seem completely relevant if you consider the fact that what I do for living revolves around ensuring a certain composition of elements fits together enough or (depending on offered potential) perfectly to create a credible picture — allowing for an honest dialogue between the viewer and the viewed (any brand communication).
It all begun long time ago
So maybe not THAT long ago but over 10 years ago I saw the Peugeot 407 advert by Philippe Andre which left me awe struck. I don’t think I know anyone in advertising from my generation oblivious to this ad. 10 years of time, literally in a different decade, might seem odd as an example to use today but apart from nostalgia this one is still spot on when discussing something universal — brand narrative. “Toys” is one of those perfectly directed adds that targeted not only the viewer but the ad festival’s jury as well.
A true international director, Philippe André splits his time between Los Angeles, London and Paris.www.wanda.net
I love how all the elements of this ad fit perfectly, from photography, to screenwriting and directing. The protagonist drives around the streets of Sydney passing life-size toy cars and their owners in helpless situations, feeling almost like kids. While the second part of the video reveals the main subject — The New Peugeot 407 cruising among our childish interpretation of what a car is, to sum of up with a fitting catchphrase — “Playtime is over” — which perfectly describes the whole marketing strategy but also perfectly frames the wole video.
And this is why we all love great ads. Because they get us engaged, often in a playful way. They are designed to make the story credible and make us feel connected. “Toys” puts us in the drivers seat, allows us to detach from what’s happening around and become the object of desires — the same way we looked up to older brother or sister. A great piece of writing, composition, and production quality which simply makes you want to watch it over, and over again… and thus strengthen the image of superiority of 407 above other city cars. It’s was no surprise the ad won over 20 awards upon release.
You could expect the same attention to detali and quality from another Peugeot add, a higher class 607.
Straight from the first tone of “The Second Tavern” by Ennio Morricone the viewer is pulled into a confrontation build up between the hero or on this example the antagonist (607) and unnamed contender. Nemesis to be revealed, defender of the suppressed, whoever… somehow that never happens. Even to the point where in two thirds of the movie the supposed tension is replaced with boredom. The grand finale, frame or punchline isn’t that surprising as well, as the final scene doesn’t deliver any surprise nor does it capitalize on the overall message. It only confirms what we know from the moment the car enters the scene — Peugeot is the cat of this city, and yes, all mice are scared but why? The tune ends abruptly with a finale or rather complete lack of it — almost as if something had fallen apart.
There is nothing wrong in serving a story that ends abruptly, leaving the viewer looking for an answer, anticipating a grand finale, finishing either the obvious with a great twist or ending the unobvious leaving the finish for the viewer to fill out the blanks. The problem with the 607 ad is the fact that there is nothing to be said nor to be anticipated. And even if you are lured into believing there might be a confrontation on screen, all of a sudden the whole idea (car eating car for no reason?)stops making sense.
One of the best ad campaigns launched in 2015 was the series of unskippable GEICO adds. Ad barely takes off to cut to the company logo and a voice-over advertising the brand. And that would be it, if wasn’t only a start to a hilarity induced by a series of events happening straight after.
Yes the add is funny, or even ridiculous and Monty Python hilarious. But it’s participants are merely helpless passengers of a derailed mine cart. You simply can’t help yourself not looking and anticipate the finale of that absurd situation. So the question is how does that kind of narrative fit into the brand communication? Well ask yourself how helpless are the passengers of a derailed mine cart? How accidental is the situation they are all of a sudden in? And finally, are they insured? Cause they could actually save some money if they are. So it’s not all laugh and jokes there.
For an even better example I will leave you with one of my favorite ads containing simple narrative and a great “unfinished” finale.
The ad works perfectly with brand Big Idea — No Bollocks and a very specific language style — no “ands” and no “buts”. This brand doesn’t do this and that. Newcastle Brown Ale doesn’t taste great AND is low on fat. It isn’t beautiful AND functional. Nor it’s traditional BUT with fresh taste. The viewer is given biased description of Newcastle, but is lenient towards it, expecting a twist. But the twist doesn’t really happen, or does it?
Vai vood you?
When thinking of areas where there is a story to be told, a company must work its elbows off to expand the narrative, translate values and mission into a tale, story or anecdote that is engaging and credible.
All the above examples, including the 607 ad, prove one thing — any narrative (be it copy-writing or screenwriting) requires equally strong direction as the strategy behind it. Otherwise it might dilute that hallmark or even make the brand image fall apart.
Before we meet again I’ll leave you with a video from Tony Zhou on silence in movies — https://vimeo.com/channels/everyframeapainting/98240271. Tony’s videos are as influential in the way I perceive brand storytelling, as some of the movies he refers to.
So this was @mutethemike and We are Necon. We make communication useful.