Sunday, November 10, 2013

How Do You Storyboard A Smile?

Why is the latest John Lewis Christmas ad so good? In large part because it's so damn emotive.

And of course, that emotion comes through a lot more strongly in the finished ad than it would in the script.

The ad takes us all the way from super-sad hare... joyful hare.

Via wondrously surprised bear.

And as the animals feel, so do we.
Because our emotions are very linked to other peoples faces.

(It's irrelevant that the characters are animals in this ad, since the animators have given them basically human features).

Of course the ad is clever too, and has lovely music, but at its core it is just an incredibly successful elicitation of emotion, which then inevitably becomes associated with the brand.

It instantly reminded me of Bill Bernbach's famous "How do you storyboard a smile?" quote. With those six well-chosen words, Bernbach asserts the centrality of emotion in successful advertising, that the script is often only a fraction of the communication, and that performance and directing are so important. 

(The importance of emotion perhaps explains the recent success of all those Candid Camera-style ads, since little is more effective than seeing real people moved. Example - Dove Sketches). 

Bernbach reminds us that we should constantly be striving to put more emotion into our work, and to be courageous in explaining to people that we show our work to (whether that be creative directors, clients, or account teams) why something that seems quite basic and perhaps unimpressive on the page will actually be powerfully effective.

An old buddy of mine, David Chriswick, who is now a top strategist at DDB Chicago, tells me he has started using Paul Ekman's facial expression tool with clients when formulating a brief. 

(Paul Ekman is the psychologist who worked out that all emotions can be seen through no more than seven basic facial expressions, and this is universal from Amazonian Indians to London bankers.)

This chart helps Chizzy to have a conversation not just around messaging but "what emotion are we trying to elicit." Good on him, I say.  


Anonymous said...

Chizzy will have a lot of trouble using that model. Its based off the primary emotions only of which only 1.5 are positive. Most clients for most brands try to engender positive emotions most of the time and will something a little more neuanced than 'joy' or 'surprise'. My adice would be to look at something with secondary and teriary emotions as well - then he'll be able to have a more meaningful chat.

Charles Edward Frith said...

I'm storyboarding a bear hibernating during the winter.

Chizzy said...

You're right, 10:58. As a tool on its own, it's not very useful. But as a basic framework for a different discussion - getting clients and the teams thinking more about what the communication DOES rather than just what it SAYS - it's a handy prompt. Nothing more complicated that that.

Great example of the power of facial expressions and non-verbal communication. One application of a greater appreciation of this is when crafting animatics in preparation for the dreaded Link or Ipsos ASI test. Whether we plan it or not, those animated characters are communicating and creating feelings subconsciously. The devil is often in the detail.

Not again said...

Facial expressions might be fine for storyboards, but to suggest you can measure emotions from a facial expression is ridiculous. One research company actually suggests you can measure a 'sub-conscious' emotion from a facial expression -
what a load of absolute rubbish. How can you consciously measure an 'unconscious/sub-conscious' emotion? And the expressions shown in your article could just as easily represent someone having the opposite emotional response.
Like I said - storyboards - fine. But to suggest you can accurately identify any emotion, let alone a specific one from a facial expression, is ridiculous.

? said...

The ad's not actually that good though..

Scamp said...

@Not again...

I don't really agree that you can't tell emotions from facial expression. I mean, look at the hare in that second shot. He's chuffed to bits! Isn't he?

Scamp said...

So, coincidentally, Martin Weigel just wrote exactly the same post as me. His is WAAAAY better though, and properly intelligent and stuff.