That Commercial’s First Few Seconds
There’s this commercial that’s playing recently on public television. I’m talking about a commercial for a fibromyalgia medicine that suggests that you run to your doctor, insist that you have this disease because a two-minute narrator made you an expert at self-diagnosis, and demand a prescription for this particular stuff, whether it suits you and your health issues or not.
I’m writing about it because I admire the clever visual cues behind the message. These types of commercials usually have the spokesperson walking around, doing some sort of task in some sort of setting while they talk directly at the camera or magically voice-over their own actions. This one is no different–our character is in a suit jacket and dress shirt with a briefcase, greeting people as she walks, ordering coffee, and sitting and talking with friends.
It’s the first two seconds of the entire commercial that tell you what her profession is, and those first few seconds connect all the rest of her actions throughout the commercial into things she would typically do. It’s a shot through a window into an empty auditorium, with our star standing on stage, at a podium; the window has “Lecture Hall” printed on it. Those printed words establish that our character is a professor, and that she’s walking around a college campus, greeting students, having a snack with colleagues.
If you took out that shot through the window and just showed her standing at the podium, putting her stuff away, the entire commercial would be harder to put together. That shot makes or breaks the whole thing; there’s still the information about the medicine, but it would make less sense visually. That’s the work of video editors and directors. It takes thought and planning to make sure a setting like that makes sense. That commercial is someone’s work of art.