“There once was a radio writer (squirrel) who was stumped for a way to craft a commercial story for her client. She searched everywhere (throughout the forest) for new and innovative ideas and was about to give up and go back to the tried and true “sounds like a commercial” format when she stumbled on an article (left by a wise old owl) that outlined a centuries-old way to create a fable. Voila! It helped her break writer’s block. Her client prospered and renewed his radio schedule ever after (ensuring a steady supply of acorns).”
A fable is a short story, often somewhat formulaic in structure, that teaches a moral or advice on how to live. Most fables feature anthropomorphized animals, inanimate objects or aspects of nature as characters, often in roles that fit the archetypal symbolism of the different animals or objects. For example, foxes as tricksters, ants as hard workers or giraffes as caring friends.
Characters with stark differences are often placed in contrast to one and another and used to demonstrate humorous examples of human foolishness. Using this story form will help you to structure commercials that engage your client’s audience with a familiar formula.
Steps to creating a fable commercial:
1. Brainstorm morals or lessons that would be appropriate for your client -- e.g., slow and steady wins the race, always trust your heart, happiness may be right in your backyard. Select a single moral that the commercial will convey. Got more than one? Create a campaign.
2. Choose two characters to represent either side of the moral debate. What animals best embody the client, product, service or customer? Remember not to belittle or insult your client’s customer.
Instead of animals, try using archetypes: the “too busy” person, the bargain hunter, the epicure, the environmentally conscious consumer, the health fanatic, the procrastinator, the smart shopper, the expert, the athlete, etc.
3. Create a situation in which the characters disagree or express their moral differences through action. In “The Tortoise and the Hare,” the two characters argue about their differing perspectives and decide to settle the disagreement by competing in a race.
4. Outline the plot’s events, beginning with the setting of the scene (which can be real or imaginary) and the introduction of characters. Decide the major problem or the conflict, who learns the lesson and how. What is the surprise or unexpected element? Make sure you include a call to action.
5. Write out each event. Brevity is important here. To give it flow, I suggest recording your narration and transcribing it. Don’t worry about following the sequence of events. You’ll be editing later.
6. Edit, tighten and revise your commercial fable. Does the fable lead the listener to the moral (and to choosing your client)?
7. Try out your story on colleagues to get feedback before you share with your client.
Read some fables to get examples of structure and story lines. Good sources include “Aesop’s Fables,” “The Jataka Tales,” Hans Christian Anderson and Dr. Seuss.
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