The power of great story-telling

Posted by on Jul 4, 2012 in Philip Berman

Warning – this blog contains gushing words from a father with a two-year-old daughter…

A neighbour just emailed me a link to the current VW advert on YouTube, with the email subject ‘tear-jerker’.

Naturally, I downed tools and watched it. And guess what? I was welling up pretty much straight away.

Some of you may think it is overly mawkish. It writes mum out of the script and it’s terribly middle class.

However, it worked for me.

And I guess you can use the ghastly word ‘viral’ to describe it – so far it’s received about 750,000 views.

But why does it work?

1. At its heart lies a really simple, easy-to-follow narrative; the development of a strong bond between father and daughter. And that’s a story millions of people can relate to. Many of us have good memories of the early years, even if just through sepia photos.

However, it is more about what that relationship invokes in all of us: a deep, primeval longing for the safe haven of an unconditional love. And that, in its ideal form, can be found in the father-daughter relationship. So, the ad men have picked a universal theme that everyone can somehow relate to, but particularly to those with deep pockets – good, decent fathers, who would do anything to protect their daughters.

2. It is a real economy of story-telling. It picks a handful of key moments in the development of that relationship, by using seminal imagery such as first footsteps and first arm-bands. Each sequence has just enough shots to make that development really clear. There is a theory that all great films are essentially made up of a sequence of great moments and this short has them in abundance.

3. Notice, no words. Pictures do all the talking.

4. It is capped off by an enchanting and haunting Beach House-style musical track, though many of their fans seem to be enraged that a Beach House track wasn’t used. If it had been, then presumably they would have been equally annoyed by the over-commercialisation of their music. Most true indie fans are never happy.

5. It creates a parallel universe of no tantrums, no screaming, no soiled nappies. The baby is beautiful and healthy, the father handsome, a world stripped bare of all the difficult day-to-day realities of having a child, thus strengthening an over-arching narrative of the unbreakable bond that must be protected at all costs!

    Better start saving for my daughter’s 18th now.