The Four Types of Video-Based Commercial Constructs

In their article, ‘Emotions In TV Ads,’ Young and Kastenholz identified four visual storytelling constructs for creating video commercials that appeal to an audience on an emotional level.

The Emotional Pivot or Brand as Star

The Emotional Pivot storytelling construct presents the product, service or brand as hero, solving the problem presented in the video and abruptly turning a negative situation into a positive one.

A recent Nicoderm television commercial showing an ill-tempered flight attendant berating passengers for a variety of common passenger behaviors due to her attempt to stop smoking is a good example of this format. The nerve-rattled, flight attendant is abruptly converted into a pleasant customer-oriented person because she starts using Nicoderm. This commercial story line illustrates how an initial negative behavior is changed into a positive one with the introduction of the product or service being advertised. The moment of change, called the ‘emotional pivot,’ is when the product is introduced as hero.

The Positive Transition or Brand as Co-Star

The Positive Transition story starts with a low level of positive behavior that abruptly turns into a higher level of positive behavior with the brand acting as the co-star, leaving the starring role for the audience. This technique often uses misdirection to hide the brand until it is suddenly revealed as the catalyst for increased positive change.

Sports car ads where the target audience is hero and the car is catalyst for getting the girl or the new job is an example of this type of commercial storytelling.

The Build or Brand as Director

The Build story technique presents a smooth flow of positive energy to the audience culminating with a strong visual payoff at the emotional climax of the commercial. In this storytelling scenario the brand is often held back and only revealed at the very end of the presentation. The brand is the director or unseen guiding hand responsible for the positive experience promised to the audience.

Cosmetic commercials where admiring males are attracted to a beautiful woman who ultimately reveals her secret as the brand, is a variation of this type of commercial storytelling.

The Sustained Emotion or Brand as Producer

The Sustained Emotion commercial is your typical ‘feel good’ advertisement that maintains a strong positive emotional presentation throughout the production. This type of commercial often uses a montage of images or video clips with an emotional or stimulating musical score. In this case the brand is acting as the producer presenting the exciting experience you could be enjoying if only you bought into the brand. The Royal Caribbean ‘Get Out There’ series of commercials is a good example of this kind of commercial.


The Web is evolving into the go-to vehicle for presenting video commercial presentations at a cost that is sustainable by any serious business. As more and more companies begin to use the Web venue as a multimedia presentation platform, those that learn how to use the medium properly by constructing compelling, memorable story-based messages that appeal to their audiences on an emotional level will benefit the most.

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