If a picture is worth a thousand words, then how much are videos worth?
Well, according to the Forrester Research, 1 minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. But all joking aside, we are experiencing an increase in video content consumption and production. YouTube states that there are approximately 400 hours of new videos uploaded to their platform every minute! But that’s not all -- engagement with the content also matters, and people are connecting with video much more than text. According to HubSpot, 55 percent of people watch videos thoroughly, without skipping, and give them their full attention.
How to Make a Great Video Commercial
Whether you're promoting a product, attempting to inform or simply pushing for more from brand recognition, if you want to get the point across, make a video. However, not all video content is created equal, and that is why we have to delve deeper into video content marketing. It’s important to make an impact and hook your viewers to ensure that they will watch your message to the end. That means that the most important parts of the commercial are the beginning (the hook) and the impactful ending that would make the consumers try the product or a service.
When we are talking about the length of a commercial, most viewers agree that they prefer videos under 60 seconds, and people would rather watch a video about a product than read about it, according to Animoto. However, Wistia claims that people mostly engage more with videos that are under 2 minutes long. Regardless, short, sweet and concise will be the most effective for your video campaign.
When filling up those two minutes with a meaningful strategy, you should first look to storytelling. All the great commercials may work different angles, but what they all have in common is a great storytelling technique -- and for good reason, too. Studies show that storytelling in advertising increases the perceived value of the product or service, likely because it enables consumers to connect to your brand on a personal level. Therefore, how well you craft a visual narrative will directly impact the success of a video commercial or campaign.
Look at IBM's commercial about taxes and IBM Watson, for example.
Yep, we’ll say it again – taxes. Something usually dull, boring and filled with plenty of negative connotations. Their clever storytelling technique is mysterious from the beginning, with a large box displaying stunning, swirling visual effects and important images, including human anatomy, health, weather catastrophes, and education. And the first thing IBM’s narrator says is: “It is one of the most powerful tools our species has created.” This acts as a hook, creating a connection between the product and humanity.
As the commercial continues, the narrative hones in on how this advanced AI technology can impact consumer's daily lives directly while showcasing home movies of regular people completing daily tasks, focusing on direct personal appeals. Consumers are reeled in with clever narration that focuses more on the consumer and less on the company, thus encouraging viewers to learn more about the device. After all, if it helps doctors cure disease and can predict weather patterns, imagine what it can do when unleashed on your taxes?
Ultimately, it's an excellent example of smart storytelling executed in the coveted 60-second timeframe -- but it's not the only best video that can inspire your next commercial. Here’s the list of our top-picked video commercials that use effective storytelling strategies.
10 Incredible Video Commercials With Compelling Narratives
1. The Force - Volkswagen
This video commercial has all the elements of the successful video content that will engage the people and help them identify with the family. Ominous but well-known Star Wars music that everyone will recognize? Check. Adorable kid? Check. An air of mystery? Double check. There is even a non-compliant dog (and animals in advertising foster positive emotions and associations with consumers).
The ad shows is an ordinary American family living a normal life and a child who loves to play pretend as Darth Vader. He runs about the house trying to use his Jedi mind tricks, but to no avail. When his dad comes home from work in his Volkswagen Passat, he showcases a key feature of the vehicle while aiding his child's imagination.
Well-choreographed moves that are coordinated with perfect music cues add to the overall cute dark-lord dramatic effect. But the message is clear: We all need a win. And you will have it with Volkswagen. This commercial is so effective because its storytelling focuses on the reality of its demographic instead of touting the product itself too much. It demonstrates how it can fit into a consumer's daily life. But the goal of this campaign is also to show people that Passat isn’t just a man’s car – it can be a family car, and that is the beauty of it. It shifts people’s perspective and drives them to see the product differently.
2. Jose Cuervo: Last Days
We have seen an increase in the apocalyptic TV shows, movies, and games. Shows like Fallout, The 100, The Walking Dead and The Handmaid’s Tale (to name a few) all capitalize on personalizing a brave new world (see what we did there?) and that positioning piques consumers curiosity and encourages them to learn more.
Clocking in at two minutes, the video begins with a windblown environment and people screaming that "it's coming," while a group of people sits stoically and silently in a bar, listening to the ominous news. One man puts on a soothing and uplifting Elvis song -- "It's Now Or Never" -- and begins dancing in the shaking bar, and others begin to join him. Each person in the bar starts dancing, enjoying their last day with music and glasses of Jose Cuervo while the roof blows off the bar and astroids hit objects outside the window.
The destruction eventually hits the bar, where the music transitions into a softer female rendition of the same song, shown later to be a customer playing the bar's piano and singing, picking up where the now broken jukebox left off. The customers continue drinking, singing and dancing together while the destruction continues. The ad eventually closes with a product view of Jose Cuervo on the shaking bar and an LED sign saying "Tomorrow is overrated."
The storytelling in Jose Cuervo's ad hits several marks. It demonstrates that Jose Cuervo can bring people together, even in the most unexpected circumstances. It proves that it can turn even the most dire of days into something enjoyable. And it even plays off of the well-known hangover that tequila can bring, playfully acknowledging it with the symbolism of the apocalypse and saying "tomorrow is overrated."
The storytelling is amplified with fantastic visual effects, and the brand even launched the #TomorrowIsOverrated hashtag, which perfectly displays that live-in-the-moment attitude
3. Old Spice | The Man Your Man Could Smell Like
We all know this commercial. And that right there is the reason why it’s on our list of most effective storytelling examples in video commercials. In fact, this commercial has amassed more than 55 million views so far.
Why does it work? It’s short – shortest one on our list, with just 32 seconds. It’s very snappy, very humorous in its absurdity, and campy while very direct at the same time -- even the ending tells it like it is (“I’m on a horse.”). Old Spice doesn't give any technical product information, no real reasons why the product should be purchased -- it just focuses on the ideal.
The commercial appeals to girlfriends and wives by playfully describing the man they desire, which Old Spice could somewhat produce. It also appeals to men by positioning the humorous ad as the man they desire to become -- and perhaps smelling like him is the perfect start to achieving it. After all, it sure would be nice to have those diamonds, tickets or that cruise on an ocean liner. Those are all positive and powerful images packed in an action-filled and transitional sequence.
Overall, we can learn a lot from Old Spice’s marketing efforts. This campaign didn’t end with the cleverly construed video footage. Instead, the company introduced an additional viral aspect and invited users to ask Mustafa (the man starring in the commercial) what they desire and he would respond with another video. Celebrities, major brands and the general public all contributed, and the user-generated content (UGC) and brand-generated content amassed more than 5.9 million YouTube views on the first day of the campaign. Their Twitter following also increased by 2700 percent.
This video commercial showed that storytelling can be quick, creative and even span to social media initiatives to increase brand success on all channels.
4. Budweiser: Super Bowl XLVIII Puppy Love #BudEpicAds
As opposed to the Old Spice’s short format, Budweiser takes the time to develop the plotline. In this emotional advertisement, an adorable puppy and a horse forge a deep bond and they both fight to keep it alive, overcoming all obstacles. It’s an emotional journey, set in a traditional atmosphere of a hardworking man, and toppled by a modern, emotional hit pop song.
Budweiser focused on a story so much that there even isn’t a product in the spotlight up until the last frame. They are very subtle with their product placement, but anything following such a strong, emotional story will be easily remembered by the viewers. Perhaps there’s a romance in the making between the owner and lady, but we know who are the best buds here. And it also has the powerful message for puppy adoption cause.
Production-wise, the video editing and sweet montage is perfection, quickly cycling viewers through a narrative while focusing on the adorable animal behavior that will captivate consumers and reinforce their brand, which is known for utilizing animals.
This 2014 commercial made us all fall in love with the Clydesdale horse and its puppy companion -- and Budweiser managed to do it all again in the 2015 with the lost dog commercial.
Budweiser dominates the storytelling with somber, mellow tune, and powerful images of Clydesdale's unhappiness, and puppy’s predicament in the pouring rain. They further our emotional distress with a threatening wolf and concern for the puppy. However, they reward viewers with a happy ending. This commercial takes viewers on a complete emotional rollercoaster, but the brand’s message is powerful – best buds always have your back.
The brand also paid respects tastefully to the country after 9/11 -- particularly by recognizing the hardships that the US experienced. The fact that they aired it only once attests to the fact that they didn’t want to benefit financially off of it; however, it also cements the brand's status as the most American beer. The overall feel the viewers got is the exact brand message they are trying to convey -- friendship and camaraderie are always present, even when times are exceptionally tough. This video strayed from marketing into pure humanity and viewers rewarded it by watching the video more than 21 million times. What's more, it wasn’t even uploaded by the brand (thus the poor video quality) -- proving that they are here for their customers and not just their dollars.
One thing to note about Budweiser's storyline-heavy video commercials is that they have found a theme and general idea that works for their brand, and they stick to that same formula. Creating a loveable story and building on it further throughout various campaigns and commercials is a great strategy,
5. John Lewis Christmas Advert 2016 - #BusterTheBoxer
A similar approach to marketing was adopted by John Lewis for the Christmas Advert, and it was a hit because it was the most shared ad in 2016. It starts off with melancholic music typical to John Lewis, but changing the pace from their usual “sadvertizing” approach also played a role in campaign’s success.
Like Volkswagen, this advert is perfectly relatable. We see a father who would do anything to make his kid happy on a Christmas morning, even if it means putting together a trampoline in the middle of the night, wrestling with the cold, the instruction manual and the hardships of the task. But that brief moment of pure satisfaction on his face makes it all worth it.
The animation department worked tirelessly to make the commercial come to life. The moments of fun they have, Baxter’s angst, and everything else is perfectly portrayed with special effects. And the fact that we see an unusual crowd on the trampoline subtly hints that John Lewis’ gifts can bring anyone together. The little girl’s reaction and the dumbfounded parents’ faces all complement the beautiful twist that made us laugh with joy. Tiny video production choices ad to the narrative. For example, notice how the break in music when Baxter is jumping disrupts the flow but adds to the overall emotion of the ad.
The lesson: do something atypical for your brand, play with twists and if possible, and incorporate stunning animation if you have the resources.
6. Mr. Clean | 2017 Super Bowl Ad | Cleaner Of Your Dreams
Unexpected. That is what you think of when you watch this sultry video commercial. The element of surprise is a great tactic to employ if you have an uninspiring product like cleaning supplies. While cleanliness is still the brand’s bread and butter, the company took it a step further from creating just a good looking cartoon hero, creating a hunkier iteration of the well-known "spokesman" himself, Mr. Clean.
The overall idea of this commercial is actually quite similar to Old Spice's message but personalizes it to their company by showing how a man who can clean is sexy to any woman. The animation is well done and the quality of the short and simple narrative is excellent. The video stays rooted in real life with the stereotypical contrast of a goofy husband is a great twist – he isn’t Mr. Clean, but he sure looks like him when he cleans!
This video ad is humorous, funny, short and to the point, plays with the sensual notes and tunes but it still showcases product effectiveness. Plus, extra points awarded for promoting gender equality in regards to household chores.
7. iPhone 7 - The Rock x Siri Dominate The Day - Apple
iPhone partnered with Dwayne the Rock Johnson in a long video format to showcase just how helpful Siri can be... And nobody does it like Apple. Using one of the most universally-beloved actors of 2018 is a wise choice that's supported by plenty of advertising and video statistics, too -- according to Google, six out of 10 YouTube subscribers would follow advice on what to buy from a beloved movie personality.
This video commercial is packed with action, and even though it’s three-and-a-half minutes long, it keeps you engaged and on your toes while showcasing the features and benefits of Siri and the iPhone 7. Plus, if it’s good enough for the Rock and improves his quality of life, imagine how it can benefit you. This is an excellent way to demonstrate Siri's capabilities. Overall, Apple excels at visual storytelling in every advertisement. Don't believe us? Watch them do it again with their experimental Apple HomePod video commercial here.
Public service announcements are always important... but they are rarely this brilliant.
This marketing team used the crass yet enjoyable anti-hero to bring awareness to testicular cancer. The use of this "spokesman" is poignant -- the target audience of the Deadpool movie franchise is aged between 15 and 35, and this type of cancer is the most common form that ails young men.
The video commercial is filled with puns we all expect to hear from Wade Wilson. However, the clever script doesn't negate the seriousness of the information. Even the comments on YouTube video support this – a lot of viewers applauded this effort and recognized the fact that cancer is not a joke, not even to Deadpool.
All in all, it's a perfect campaign with a perfect Deadpool hashtag -- #touchyourselftonight. What's better? Deadpool replicated this public service announcement forthe ladies and breast cancer awareness with the same vigor and flair.
9. Samsung SmartThings
The Samsung Smart Home video is a great example of storytelling because it shows what everyday life could look like -- and boy, is it a vision. In the video commercial, the smart house has come to life to serve the family and ease the daily grind. While the future of artificial intelligence is ever-changing and often questioned, Samsung alleviates any potential fear perfectly by focusing on all the good it could do, from learning the habits of its occupants to providing real-time data about traffic -- and even taking care of the family pet! The commercial showas one ordinary day for the Smart family and how they life with Samsung’s connected devices.
Throughout the video commercial, the age-old marketing goal of communicating how a product will solve a consumer's problem shines brilliantly here. Samsung doesn’t state an overt conclusion for viewers -- instead, it takes them on a journey and allows them to come to an understanding that a fully integrated smart home could improve every aspect of their personal and professional lives. The company doesn’t yell in their faces "you need this!". Rather, they create an innate desire for customers.
A lack of narration also makes this video commercial perfect for social media, where sound might be turned off. Subtle features are simply described with one-liner sentences, without attracting too much attention away from the plotline and video flow. This general messaging is replicated in Nest's video doorbell ad, proving that visual storylines are effective in fostering a "want" in consumers.
10. Wix.com Big Game | Chez Feliz Part 2
In this video commercial, one of the best action movie stars meets the Wonder Woman herself -- all for a drag-and-drop website builder. But somehow the story checks out. (Or, it’s so awesome that whatever they are selling we would buy.) We don’t even need the logic of why there is a fight in the first place, but with Jason Statham, we are used to experiencing complete mayhem.
The message is clear and outspoken -- business models may change, the world around you may change, but Wix is constantly easy to operate, and it adapts to your needs. The contrast of the over the top marketing and action-packed sequences with the easy flow of website building really works well together.
And snagging the most dynamic duo from the film industry and creating a mini-action movie experience is brilliant, creating a cinematic commercial that appeals to a wide variety of younger men and women who are likely plugged in and looking to build some sort of a website. Wix even found such success with this pairing that they created two separate video ads, proving that a bold storyline, useful information and strong spokespeople will boost engagement and captivate potential consumers.
This video commercial is creative and informative, and Jason Statham and Gal Gadot will keep you hooked. All thing's considered, it can’t go wrong.
Ultimately, if you're aiming to make a captivating video commercial ad, research your demographic and find out what your demographic might connect with. Then, craft a storyline around that information. By showing your consumers and potential customers that you understand them -- their wants, their needs, their daily life, and even their problems that you might be able to solve -- you'll increase the likelihood that they will make a personal connection with your advertisement. And, as we now know, a stronger personal connection leads to a higher-value company.
Take the time to invest in great video production, a cohesive plot, spokespeople that resonate and information that adds value. When this is achieved, you'll be sure to have a video commercial that incorporates seamless storytelling and grows your brand.