Style and Substance: Getting Good Stories from Visuals

  • Posted by info 07 Apr

Style and Substance: Getting Good Stories from Visuals

“A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing”

That quotation comes from a young George Lucas, the creative visionary behind Star Wars. To make Star Wars so successful George Lucas realised that spaceships, aliens and explosions weren’t the key to success, it was making original stories, characters and settings. Of course, Star Wars’ visuals are iconic and contribute hugely to its mythos, so obviously effects and filming techniques are also important.

What needs to be done to get a stylish video right is work out exactly how your visuals will emphasize a particular story; how will that cool effect allow the audience to see a character’s motivation in a unique way? What is the best visual trick to use to express this person’s feeling at this time? Furthermore, if it is a promotional piece, you additionally have to think, how can I tie my brand into this video in a seamless, effective and non-obtrusive manner?

Answering those questions can be tricky, but when addressed the results are often amazing. Advertising is really taking this message on board, and over the last few years there’s been an explosion of original stories in commercials that use both stylish visuals, interesting characters and on point branding to get their message across.

There’s no one way of achieving this; interesting synchronisation of style and substance can take many different forms. So, to help, here are some different examples of what people have done to meld stories with interesting visual effects.

For Your Next Step – Lloyds Bank

This advert really connects its brand into the story. Not only is Lloyds’ iconic black horse literally in the centre of events; it’s used to push the story forward, being a device to go from one interesting scenario to the next.

Its premise is noncomplex. The Lloyds horse gallops through slow motion scenes, where several characters are at a turning point in their lives. People are becoming parents, people are proposing, people attend a funeral, a man drops his child off at her first day of school, a new couple kiss at a funfair. These are all basically snapshots of some of the most important developmental experiences someone goes through.

So, this video has used these scenarios that relate to everyone and sells banking an incredibly stylish way, by suggesting that Lloyds will be there to help throughout, showing its horse galloping through moments in peoples’ lives.

 Dogs Trust- Special Someone

This advert, which we also discussed in last week’s blog, uses a stylish storytelling element called a repeated visual motif to bridge its story to its audience. The repeated visual motif in this instance is the little puppet friend of the dog. As well as being cute, this little puppet character acts as a symbol of what the dog wants and that s/he is missing something  in his/her life. The puppet accompanies the dog to all its activities, being company, but it is not the same as human companionship. The visual motif is carried on when the dog finds an owner; low and behold, he looks just like the puppet!

It’s interesting to consider how important the puppet’s role is in getting emotion across, as the video is accomplished and uses strong camerawork throughout; however, the producers of this video knew that that alone was not enough. Something needs to be present as a symbol of the dog’s emotion.

It’s also fun to see the female puppet at the end of the video. An interpretation of this is that the dog’s new owner needs to get a girlfriend. This is a blink and you’ll miss it visual, but they included it for a reason.

Nike- The Jogger

This next commercial will not be too familiar to UK audiences; however, its impact around other parts of the world was huge.

This advert is good to consider, because it shows that to create a stylish advert, and to make an interesting story doesn’t require a huge budget, lots of special effects and a complete branding overhaul. It just needs to make something look distinctive, and do something different than the norm.

This advert is one continuous backwards tracking shot. It begins with someone jogging in the distance. A voiceover talks about how greatness is not just for athletes, prodigies or superstars, but something we’re all capable of. It becomes obvious, as the jogger comes into focus, that the person that has been getting closer is in actual fact an overweight child. This is completely atypical in terms of advertising casting; but it really works in this instance.

Thanks to the way the advert was presented and its timing (it was released during the 2012 Olympics) the video has seen massive impact and as the last link demonstrated, garnered a huge reaction. It managed this through its stylish presentation and its feel good story of optimistically making non athletes the focus of attention.

So, in conclusion, the key to making successful adverts isn’t just in showing off a product and how great it is; it’s through using style and substance, creating something that stands out for its story as much as its visuals. There are many ways to do this and each brand will need to do this slightly differently; just always remember, absolutely go for the most impressive visuals you can think of, but the real trick is using the visuals to showcase the story it’s telling!

Please note, we didn’t make any of the above videos, we do think they’re great however!

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