My thesis aims to uncover the ultimate strategy behind short form visual stories, otherwise known as the digital advertisment. In this thesis, I analyze traditional storytelling, visual storytelling, and short-form visual storytelling in order to uncover the best practices advertisers should use when crafting a digital advertisement.
Storytelling “reveals elements and images of a story while also catalyzing the imagination of the listener” (National Storytelling Network, 2017). This tradition has two purposes for society: a neurological structure, and a social mechanism (for historic preservation, human interaction, and a vehicle for connecting with others) (Gottshcall, 2012; Scott, 2012; Paul, 2012; Woodside, 2008).
Visual Storytelling is “using photography, illustration, video, (usually with a musical enhancement) to guide” the human brain along a plotline, and has an unlimited timeframe (Ron, 2017). There are seven key elements to effective visual storytelling: A listener/audience, an element of realism coupled with escapism, a focus on the dread of life, an element of the unknown, emotion, simplicity, and a three-part plot structure (Andrews, 2010; ProQuest, 2012; Zak, 2014; Stanton, 2014; Reagan, 2016; Jarvis, 2014; Petrick, 2014)
In the words of Sholmi Ron, from a marketing perspective, “Visual [short hand] Storytelling is a marketing strategy that communicates powerful ideas through a compelling story arc, with your customer at the heart of the story, and delivered through interactive and immersive visual media – in order to create profitable customer engagements" (Ron, 2017). This advertising strategy has four best practices: non-obvious logo placement, a comedic emotion, multiple emotional arcs, and a relevant message (Golan, 2017; Teixeira, 2015; Graves, 2017, Teixeira, 2017). These are important to understand because, in 2017, online consumers can be described as skeptical, conscious of content, individualistic, and drawn to authenticity (Teixeira, 2014).
To supplement my findings, I conducted primary research by analyzing the 2017 Super Bowl videos against a criteria created using the best practices previously identified (in Part 1 and Part 2). Through the data collection of the 66 videos, I uncovered the most popular plotline is "fall than rise," the most popular emotions are humor, inspiration, and empathy and people tend to have a preference towards videos that are more realistic and simplistic in nature.
In the end, I recommend that advertisers identify an authentic yet relevant message, while employing a comedic, inspirational, or empathic tone, and that they place their ads exclusively for their target market. Additionally, producers should use a fall then rise plotline (with multiple mini plot peaks and valleys), a "logo-pulsing" strategy, and a minimal amount of characters and settings to keep the audience's focus on the ad’s message.