And yet that’s exactly what the late Blake Snyder demonstrated in his last book, Save The Cat Strikes Back.
If you’re not familiar with the Save the Cat series of screenwriting books, let me explain. Blake Snyder breaks the typical movie down into 15 dramatic “beats,” that also coincide with traditional 3-act story structures and Joseph Campbell’s monomyth/hero’s journey cycle.
If you’re interested in learning more, you can download all 15 beats on the “Blake Snyder Beat Sheet” along with a diagram of how the beats line up with a basic 3-Act Structure over at the official Save The Cat Website.
At any rate, it’s important to keep in mind that these are the structural beats for feature-length movies – that’s what makes it so cool and semi-mind-blowing that they also work for a 30 second commercial.
So here’s how Blake broke down the dramatic structure of a Pledge Commercial, using these same structural “beats” that he uses to teach scriptwriting:
“The Day I Discovered Pledge
Opening Image – A downcast housewife. Home a mess. Dust everywhere. This “before” snapshot depicts the Set-Up, and even a Stasis = Death moment, for it looks like things won’t change.
Catalyst – Then our hero discovers….. Pledge!
Debate – “Should I use it?”
Break Into Two – Yes!
Fun and Games – With a spray can of her B-story ally, the delighted home maker flies through the house, dust vanishes like magic, tabletops glow. And the “false victory” at Midpoint shows she can live like this all the time. But there’s a problem….
Bad Guys Close In – To have the “new,” she must give up the “old.” Can our hero face the truth of what she must sacrifice?
All Is Lost – What “death” has to occur? What “old idea” must be gotten rid of? What is the “All Is Lost” moment of our Pledge commercial? Why it’s dropping Brand X in the trash! It’s the furniture polish that our hero used to use that is now obsolete.
Break Into Three – Having dispensed with Brand X, the synthesized pair finish up the housework with delight and…
Final Image – Dressed in her tennis outfit, racket in hand, a newly together housewife walks out the door, leaving the primally named Pledge atop a very shiny table to guard her home.
So what’s the point of all this? Three things:
1. To reinforce the importance of scripting your online videos.
That pledge commercial probably had very little dialogue, but the messaging was still scripted as intensely as a feature-length film. And the same thing occurs with the vast majority of high-conversion product videos and viral videos.
More importantly, if you can and should script an interactive video, shouldn’t you also “script” visitor interaction with your Website? Surely you’ve given thought to what happens on this or that page, but have you considered the overall “persuasive arc” that would take place as the visitor moves through your site?
2. To reinforce the importance of Story in your online messaging
We may claim to be “just the facts” kind of guys and gals, but we’re not. We wouldn’t be human if we were. As a persuasive technique, Story rules, even in:
- something as seemingly static as a photograph,
- something as short as a headline,
- or something as important as your opening “hook.”
3. To recommend Blake Snyder’s books to you if you haven’t read them.
His Save the Cat series is well worth the read, regardless of whether or not you have any aspirations toward writing film scripts. Just check out his Amazon reviews for his first and second books and you’ll see.
Welcome Back from the Holidays
Oh, and I also wanted to welcome everyone back from the holidays. Hope all of you enjoyed some much-deserved time off. Thanks for reading my stuff. I’m resolute in my commitment to bring you as much great material as possible in the coming year.
P.S. If you have any suggestions for topics or anything you’d like to see covered, feel free to e-mail me.