Television advertisements frequently use the model of storytelling refined by tradition over centuries to increase their impact, direct our attention, and firmly install their corresponding brand in our memory.

The basic story core of problem-transformation-solution is overtly or more subtly present in the majority of ads. Commercials also use fast movement, expressive high-contrast imagery, and appeal to all senses.

Traditional stories normally carry an ethical message. Similarly, armed with powerful storytelling tools, advertisements can transmit subconscious ideological messages along with the main brand they are trying to push.

Advertisers see people as target minds. Their main goal is to affect, influence, and impact them – although most advertisers would argue that they are simply trying to give people what they want. This is, of course, not mentioning the fact that the creation of wants is an intrinsic part of modern marketing. The specific techniques of manipulating people into wanting, following, or believing include:

  • Playing upon inner emotional desires (envy, stability, curiosity, pride)
  • Taking advantage of subconscious insecurities (fear, xenophobia, oedipal complex)
  • Exploiting basic biological drives (lust, hunger)
  • Manipulating language (estate tax => death tax)

And of the more sophisticated techniques:

  • Triggering cultural archetypes that reside in the collective unconscious


Cool Hunting

Cool hunting is the frantic and efficient process of chasing the "hot", respected trends in the teenage culture. It involves surveys, observation, and sociological research.

An effective way to find a cool trend is to pay close attention to the trend-setters, the "head of the pack". They represent only 20% of the whole teenage target group and therefore are hard to find. But what they wear and do is desired and being strived for by the remaining 80% - your huge target group, a real gold vein of 30 million customers.

Once you nail down the cool trend, especially if it's still underground, you can market it, get all the profit you can out of it, mercilessly exploit it, and as a consequence, make it so widespread that it is no longer considered "cool". Thus, you find the trend, market it, and kill it. This is the basic of cool hunting.


Storytelling - the essentials

Brett’s lecture gave me a clear idea of the basic elements of storytelling. Any details that he didn’t put on the board, I could still catch by analyzing his communication style.

Things that are absolutely central to a well-told, captivating story are:




These tools aim at appealing to all senses, triggering the listeners’ imaginations, and immersing the audience into the world of the story.

In Brett's story, like in so many traditional stories, there also was a central hero, a problem, a solution, and a transformation that let to the solution. Not surprisingly, all three of us in class got different impressions of what those were!

I have also noticed that many stories have a certain rhythm to them. In our case there was several episodes of repetitive upward-and-downward movement. The fisherman threw his hook down and pulled it up, down again and up again.

Finally, an important element of a story is the ethical message, or moral. The story Brett told us in class had prominent demonstrations of what kind of behavior is simply “right”.

These elements and tools of storytelling have been used since times immemorial precisely because they are effective at moving and influencing the audience. For this reason they will continue to be used in the future.

In the context of our class, the application of storytelling tools in advertisement is important. We can expect to see use of movement, expression, and impacting of all the senses in commercials. Ethical messages – probably not so much.


The Printing Press

The printing press completely altered the Western Civilization at such a deep and basic level that we never even ponder it. It has been one of the inventions that signaled the end of the Middle Ages and ushered in a new era.

Among many other things, the printing press:

  • Created the first mass media, and consequently, a broader public sphere for discussion and debate
  • Played a major role in the advancement of science
  • Reduced the need for most humans to rely on memory – therefore weakening it.

Ad analysis and story map

Watch before you read

I chose to analyze this difficult, but masterfully done advertisement. It was filmed by Chris Cunningham, who is one of my favorite directors (he is a wizard at what he does). I immediately noticed that this ad doesn’t have the traditional story line with a hero going through a transformation to solve a problem. The swimmer here functions more like a visual ornament.


This commercial is still so effective that it immediately disarms you, pierces your neocortex like it wasn’t even there, and goes straight for your deep subconscious motivations.

In the end you are sitting in your chair with all of your muscles relaxed, saliva dripping from your chin, and… now you have a new dream. THE NEW BMW 7 SERIES.

Here is the text of the advertisement, spoken by a superhero voice with a delicious accent:

To experience the unexpected

To discover fresh thinking

To be enticed by the new
Is to feel truly alive

Sheer Driving Pleasure

Clearly, this vague, out-of-focus, yet pleasant mumbo-jumbo does not really have anything to do with owning a car.

So, how can we draw out a Visual Portrait for this piece?

There was one thing that Jason said in class that particularily struck me. Sometimes, there is no clear hero or central character in the story.

But in those cases, YOU, the viewer, could be the hero undergoing a transformation as you are watching the ad! In the end, you are changed. I think this is one of such ads.

The swimmer here symbolizes certain emotional states you are manipulated into experiencing as you are viewing the ad. Here is my view of their progression, along with some comments.

1. You are standing on the verge of a risky but exciting endeavor (this would be purchasing a super expensive car or moving up a step in the social hierarchy)

2. You are uncertain, but decide to take a leap (allright, maybe I’ll go into debt slavery for the rest of my life, but I’ll be driving a classic)

3. You explore the new ground (hmm, soft… shiny… good)

4. You achieve enlightenment (I’m buying this and I’ve got the Zen - this is suggested through a special pose of the swimmer)

5. You are up for free, smooth, “Sheer driving experience” (Automobile Nirvana for eternity)

click on image to zoom in

Holography and 3D imagery - on the future of camera

I think that the next leap in visual media will be integration of holographic technology and 3D imaging in our daily environments. Holographic televisions are being sold already, although still for $30,000 (see link). Since holography relies on complex and expensive laser technology to produce three dimensional images, this price may not go down for some time.

A simpler solution has been invented in Denmark. Cheoptics360 is a system that produces 3D images that appear to float in space. Cheoptics units are commercially available in sizes from 5 to 100 feet across. Although the system looks unwieldy with its pyramidal framework, it’s amazing at work. In addition, it uses light projectors instead of lasers, so it’s easier and probably cheaper to manufacture (for its size). It’s interesting that from the very start, Cheoptics360 is being aggressively pushed as an advertisement device.

See video

Alas, to avoid future shock, we might as well get used to the following ideas:

  • 3D imagery is on its way
  • It will be used in advertisement, and it will be successful
  • Processing and deconstructing 3D messages will require new skills in media literacy


iphone infomercial

wow... i can't imagine how people used to live before iphones

Watch and giggle

This is video is a parody of an advertisement that describes a new gadget as a "cure for all ills".
You would think that after so many disappointments the general public would treat such promises with caution. Yet the stuff sells...

A deeper look at the commonplace

alarm clock
Pronunciation: &-'lärm 'kläk
from Middle French alarme, from Old Italian all'arme, literally, to the arms
from Old French dialect (Picard) cloque bell, from Medieval Latin clocca, of Celtic origin

Function: noun

: a device other than a watch for indicating or measuring time that can be set to emit a sound at a desired time

Technology Analysis:
Alarm clock is one of the devices that exert an enormous influence on our daily microsociological lives, yet most people barely ever ponder that influence. Alarm clock’s presence is all-pervasive especially in the Western societies. This piece of equipment, usually not bigger than 8x8x8 inches is used to synchronize an individual’s sleep patterns with the rhythm of the surrounding society or corresponding work environment. A loud repetitive sound (music or radio are also used) wakes the individual up at a programmed time.

- Alarm clock’s history is the classic scenario of a technological device which was originally invented as a convenient servant, but became a master of its inventors’ daily lives.

- It has an ambiguous standing between a tool and a machine. We use it as a tool to mechanize our lives.

- Although the alarm clock does not increase its user’s capacities per se, it increases the efficiency of an entire society by regulating working hours. Conversely, stable functioning of many societies is quite dependent on the alarm clock

- 2 interesting observations can be made about the limiting effects of the alarm clock.
1. It distances people from natural sleep patterns, which are built around daylight cycles.
2. It abruptly ends many dreams, or even wakes the person up before a dream has started.

- Indirect side effects of the alarm clock may include:
Sleep deprivation (often leading to health problems)
Use of stimulants (caffeine, amphetamines)

- Unlike with many technologies, it is always easy to refuse the alarm clock. However, your routine and schedule would have to be changed first.

- If the alarm clock stops functioning, but the current routine and schedule remain active, consequences for the individual’s professional and personal life could be problematic. Imagine stumbling and falling on a treadmill.

- Just like any clock device, the alarm clock supports the mass obsession with timeliness and regularity, and, in fact, perpetuates the myth of “time”.

- To reiterate what has been said earlier, the alarm clock routinizes our sleeping and waking life patterns, and in most cases synchronizes them with those currently active in our society.
This last part is not inherent in its mechanism, and an alarm clock can be set up to work at any schedule.


Yeats' strange deviation from the subject in Easter, 1916

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.

The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;

A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;

The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.

Embrace your shadow
Eat your shadow
Become more dense