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Look Who’s Talking

At the heart of effective communication is a well-told story

Storytelling is what connects us to our humanity. It is how we make meaning out of the tribulations of our daily lives and the human complexities of our existence. Even our thought processes and conversations are predominantly in narrative form.

Whether fact or pure fantasy, we respond to a gifted narrator’s ability to make us think, reflect, imagine, laugh or cry.

The Craft of Audience Engagement

The face-to-face engagement of an audience by narrating a story directly to them has been with us since the dawn of man gathering around campfires at night. It has been a continuous communication practice that has shaped the narrative of human development, knowledge, and cultural understanding.

With the advent of television advertising, it was naturally the first communication technique filmmakers turned to, and charismatic narrators were sought to get messages across in face-to-face engagements with TV viewers. As can be expected, movie actors were their first port of call.

For many of these, celebrity ‘brand endorsers’, starring in commercials increased their public familiarity and turned out to be a beneficial career move. Hollywood star Ronald Reagan for example, popularly appeared in many commercials before becoming Governor of California and later President of the United States of America.

Face-to-face engagement of audience gatherers has endured to this day in many forms and forums. From naturalist and narrator Sir David Attenborough’s BBC documentary series to renowned public speakers, and of course, movie stars in commercials are, very effectively, still with us.

1. Jose Cuervo, Have A Story To Tell

Advertising Agency: McCann, New York

The Storyteller is Canadian actor, film producer, and film director Kiefer Sutherland.

2. Cisco, The Intuitive Network Story

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, U.S.A.

Cisco Systems is a leading global networking and hardware company.

Directed by Paul Dektor, the storyteller of this, 3 minutes long commercial, is Peter Dinklage of ‘Game of Thrones’ fame.

As the diminutive American Film Producer and multi-award winning actor walks through London, he shares his contemplations with the viewer about what intuition is and means in our super connected world and daily lives.

3. Grand Basel, Idris Elba on What Gives Cars A Soul?

Advertising Agency: Jung von Matt/Limmat, Zurich, Switzerland

Directed by Elias Ressegatti, and filmed in Italy at Turin’s iconic Lingotto automobile factory, this commercial is about the world’s first exhibition of automotive masterpieces to be launched later this year in Basel, Switzerland.

The narrator is car enthusiast and award-winning movie actor Idris Elba who reveals his “lifelong obsession” with cars. He describes the characteristics that make cars masterpieces of automotive design and ponders on what the other characteristics are that give a car a soul?

4. Carlsberg, The Happy Denmark Story

Advertising Agency: FOLD 7, London

Directed by Martin Krejci, the commercial features Mads Mikkelsen, one of Denmark’s most prominent and admired movie actors, as the man who philosophises to the viewer over his country’s lauded happiness as he cycles round Copenhagen.

5. CanalPlay, A Vampire’s Story

Advertising Agency: Buzzman, Paris, France

CanalPlay is a French video on demand Internet service. Directed by Bart Timmer, this cinematic commercial is brought to life by a stellar performance from actor John Malkovich in an amusing role as a vampire Bank Manager.

He seems to have overcome any problems of operating during daylight hours as he relates his story to the viewer about CanaPlay’s great, on demand service.

6. Jaguar F-Type Coupé, Good To Be Bad

Advertising Agency: Spark44

Jaguar North America’s highly successful ‘British Villains’ campaign and series of commercials, has won Gold and Platinum in the AME automotive category awards for the ‘World’s Best Advertising & Marketing Effectiveness’.

Filmed by Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper, the series featured British actors Sir Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Strong as suave and cultured villains. The late theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, once made a memorable cameo appearance in one commercial as a master-mind of villainous intelligence.

This recent commercial stars British Academy Film Awards winner Nicholas Hoult as the master-mind of Jaguar technology that gives British Villains such an agile edge.

7. Old Spice, Hello Ladies

Advertising Agency: Weiden+Kennedy

In this parody of ‘manliness’, the hugely popular ‘Old Spice Man’ who speaks so directly to female viewers, is American actor and former National Football League player, Isaiah Amir Mustfa.

Directed by Tom Kuntz, the commercial at last count in January 2017 received over 53,600,000 views on YouTube, making it the most popular viral campaign in recent history.

‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’, won a Cannes Grand Prix for film and an Outstanding Commercial Pimetime Emmy Award.

8. Santam, The Realmacoy

Advertising Agency: King James, Cape Town

Oscar winning actor Sir Ben Kingsley, shares his thought provoking insights with the viewer about the complexities of the ‘fine print’ that we so often have to confront.

Film Director of the Santam Insurance Company commercial, Dean Blumberg commented; “As a team we stuck to a precise translation of the idea, no extraneous bells and whistles. I wanted beauty, simplicity and a gravity led by our star.”

9. Johnnie Walker Blue Label, The Game Changer

Advertising Agency: BBH (Bartle Bogle Hegarty), China

40 years after his death at the age of 32, with the use of Computer Generated Imagery (CGI), Bruce Lee has been brought back to life to inspire and uplift a new generation of young people to seek self-improvement.

The commercial was a passionate filmic endeavour by Korean-American film director Joseph Kahn in collaboration with Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon.

Bruce Lee (1940-1973)

Not only did he introduce Chinese martial arts to the West, he also changed the way Chinese minorities were seen abroad, breaching that cultural gap between East & West.

He studied philosophy and drama at the University of Washington, chose martial arts as his means of self-expression and became a Hollywood actor. His most famous starring role was in ‘Enter The Dragon’. It is considered to be one of the greatest martial arts movies of all time.

‘Enter The Dragon’ was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2004, for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

He inspired millions of people to seek self-improvement and Time Magazine rates him as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century and the greatest martial arts icon of modern, popular culture.

10. Johnnie Walker Blue Label, The Making of Game Changer CGI

This is a fascinating look behind the scenes of the painstakingly detailed production planning that was required to achieve the desired result.