How five-act structure make ads more effective

How five-act structure make ads more effective

STORY FOR BUSINESS

Start: 17 October 2022
Duration: 7 weeks
Sessions: 6
Price: £1,200

MORE INFO

Can an ad made for just £50 deliver more effectively than a John Lewis advert featuring Elton John and costing £7m? Yes. If you use story effectively, budget doesn't matter. We break two ads into five acts to show why.

 

It may not surprise you to hear that a John Lewis Christmas ad was crowned Youtube’s top festive advert two years running. That ad was 2018’s The Boy and the Piano, a £7m production featuring Elton John.

But the same Christmas, a touching seasonal video from filmmaker Phil Beastall – Love is a Gift – made for less than £50 was hailed ‘better than the John Lewis campaign’.

We know that budget doesn’t matter – it’s all about how you deliver story. So we broke each advert down into its five acts to see which one has a stronger story structure.

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The Five Act Structure of Love Is A Gift by Phil Beastall

This is a beautifully structured short film, with a clear archetypal shape:

Act One

Chris lives in a modest house – and he is counting off the days on a calendar. It’s the first of December. He is a diligent and serious man. This is his ordinary world.

Inciting incident

He prepares for Christmas – and does so with great care – it must mean a lot to him.

Act Two

Chris continues to live his life, crossing days off the calendar. Christmas gets closer.

Act Three

He’s impatient for December 25th to arrive, and keeps looking at the calendar.

Midpoint

The reveal of the ‘truth’ – Chris is waiting to open a present. It seems that the present is important to him.

Turning point

Christmas Eve.  Something is keeping him awake at night – he clearly has something on his mind. He seems sad and preoccupied.

Act Four

It’s Christmas Day finally. And we discover what is inside the present. An audio tape with a message from his mother. Chris reacts to her voice and becomes emotional.

Worst Point

We discover that his mother has passed away, and this is the last tape she made for him. She bids him a final farewell.

Act Five

Chris’s mother has a final message for him – she loves him very much, and will always be his mum. She tells him that the happiest day of her life was the day she gave birth to him. A tearful Chris smiles …

 

So, now we move on to:

 

The Five Act Structure of The Boy and the Piano

This one isn’t quite as clear in its story-telling. The idea is very simple – modern Elton John thinks back across his life to where it all started:

Act One

Elton John sits at a piano in a house. There’s something melancholy about this situation. He tentatively plays a note … This is his ordinary world.

Inciting incident

A thought occurs to Elton, and he begins to play ‘Your Song’ …

Act Two

We flashback to Elton, when he was a little younger.  He plays ‘Your Song’ to a packed theatre.

Act Three

We flashback in time through increasingly younger Elton Johns. His persona and performance become increasingly more flamboyant.

Midpoint

We reach a teen Elton John playing the piano in a pub – he seems to have found his ‘mission in life’ – as he entertains the crowds.

Turning point

Eventually, we reach Elton John at school where he plays in a school concert in front of a proud mother.

Act Four

The youngest EJ yet, probably six years old, races downstairs on Christmas Day – to be presented with the gift of a piano.

Worst Point

This six-year-old EJ has to make a choice – should he play the piano or not? His finger hovers above the piano key …

Act Five

He presses the piano key – decision made. And we cut back to modern EJ – delighted that he made the right decision all those years ago. Still slightly melancholy, he smiles and closes the piano lid.

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Both ads have their charms, but Love is a Gift wins the story-structure test and proves that you don’t need a big budget to connect with an audience or customers – you just need an engaging story. Which advert do you prefer?

Emily Ronan is a freelance writer and editor based in Bath. She holds an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University and is a John Yorke Story: Story for Business alumna with a keen interest in video games and nature writing. 

Emily has recently worked with John Yorke and Caroline Marchal as a story development assistant in the writers’ room for an Interior Night narrative video game.

STORY FOR BUSINESS

Start: 17 October 2022
Duration: 7 weeks
Sessions: 6
Price: £1,200

MORE INFO

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Published on December 17, 2018

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