Every once in a while, a piece of marketing comes along that is so breathtaking, all you can do is tip your hat and applaud. That’s how I felt watching this commercial from Breast Cancer Now, which is one of the most beautifully emotive pieces of content I’ve ever seen. Titled ‘Time Machine’, it tells the story of a young girl hoping to whisk her sick mother away to the year 2050, a time when there is a cure for breast cancer.
Watch the Ad:
Powerful stuff, right?
Great Campaigns Find A Way To Resonate
Firstly, video is the perfect medium to tell this story. Video is fast becoming one of the most powerful tools in the content marketing repertoire. It’s such an effective medium for storytelling that when executed well it can leave a lasting emotional imprint on its audience.
This effort reminds me of the fundraising campaign from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), which shone a spotlight on mistreated animals and to the soundtrack of the Sarah McLachlan song ‘Angel’. It inspired tears from millions, but also achieved so much more. According to the New York Times, that ad when it aired in 2007 raised more than $30 million in just two years, making it the most successful fundraising initiative in ASPCA history. The subject matter is different, but they share an unshakeable emotional hook. These are great examples of how emotional storytelling can inspire action, persuade an audience and prompt them to open their hearts, minds and wallets.
So, How Did They Do It?
It’s beautiful. It’s emotive. It’s powerful. It inspires action. But how did they do it? Let’s take a closer look at the mechanics of this spellbinding piece of content:
It Tells A Story Beautifully
This story grabs our attention and holds it. Why is this young girl reading about Einstein and complicated mathematics? Did she just circle a complex physics equation? What is she hunting for in the shed? Just why is she doing hoarding all of this junk in her bedroom? Safety goggles? Seriously? We’re immediately thrown into the middle of the action. With no context or preamble, we’re compelled to stay until the end if we want to find out what this all means.
It Captures Our Hearts
There are infinite number of ways Breast Cancer Now could have constructed this story. We could have been bombarded with stats and facts, scientists and case studies and aspirational statements—but they specifically chose to focus the relationship between a child and parent, a relationship immediately familiar to most viewers.
We can’t help but be pulled into this scenario, to empathise with its characters, and find ourselves wishing alongside them that 2050 can hurry up and arrive so they can find their cure. Furthermore, the lengths that this little girl is willing to go to—literally constructing a time machine to save her mother’s life—makes the thought of donating a few dollars seem so simple by comparison.
The story’s particulars, in other words, constitute the vehicle through which the storyteller draws us in. In moving our emotions via the familiar parent/child relationship, the marketer makes us want to become part of the story, and part of the solution.
It Doesn’t Shout—It Whispers
If you want someone to pay closer attention to what you’re saying, sometimes it’s best to whisper. This storyteller, without any dialogue, has done something far more compelling: they’ve forced us to watch more intently, to willingly follow along to the story’s conclusion, and to identify more completely with the characters and the Breast Cancer Now cause.
It Collapses Time
Prompting people to donate to a cause that has a goal more than three decades into the future is a tough ask. Perhaps this story’s greatest achievement is in making the the distant future feel so immediate. Yes, 2050 may seem like a long way away, but breast cancer is an all-too-real reality for people in 2018. We walk away from this story with the sense that although time machines may be the stuff of childhood fantasy, finding a cure for breast cancer is not. The message is subtle yet clear: we can help by donating to the cause. By doing so, maybe we could even find the cure sooner, meaning little girls don’t have to dream of building time machines and we can help save the lives of young mothers like this one.
Marketing achievements of this magnitude don’t just happen, and video storytelling this compelling is rare—it requires the expertise of many content experts, not the least of which are writers with the talent and experience to create stories that resonate with an audience.
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