I have been desperate to try week 2 assignment to break down a commercial in 5 seconds increments – I did not even look at the list we were provided as I had a commercial in mind. 

I used Vialogues to break it down and make notes. As Christina Hendricks says in her post about this activity, it is not only fun but really revealing. if you want to join me in Vialogues and make your own notes on the commercial you are welcome. I made it public so anyone can comment. 

I have seen this advert/commercial many times and it is an all time favourite. I never stopped to ask why or what was the shape of the story. In week one I explored the story spine technique through a video I made. A series of unconnected images that seemed to come alive in a story just by the addition of the story spine structure. This was fascinating to me. How humans add stuff that is not there, just to make a story even when there isn’t one. 

Here is the story spine for my advert:

Once upon a time there was a cat that saw life as ‘meh!’
Every day passed with cat just lying there whilst the world passed him by
But one day whilst lying bored on the sofa he had a thought that changed his life. Why be so cat?
Because of that he ran outside in the sunshine
Because of that he started to do all the things that dogs do
Because of that he felt full of life and ready to Carpe Diem
Until finally he was accepted by a pack of dogs as one of their own
And ever since then he lived happily ever after!

Is this what you want for you own boring life? Then join the O2 cell phone network.

Is it a contagious story?

Contagious Awe?

Yes, to all the above. It opens with a usual enough sight, a cat lying down in a kitchen. The voiceover soon tells us that it is ‘the cat thinking’. We cannot hear cats thinking normally so this is mysterious. We pay attention. 

Who has not experienced the feelings cat is describing? Boom we have empathy.

It all seems to be going downhill to clinical cat depression and then the surprise. Cat gets an idea. 

The idea reveals to him that life could be different if only he could be more dog! As Flash Gordon music starts to play and he flies out of the cat flap, we want to be Cat, we admire his courage and feel more and more astonished at what Cat can do, culminating with Cat ‘becoming’ a dog represented by him running with the pack and then in the back of the car. 

Contagious awe turns out to be a key emotion that makes stuff goes viral. I do not think it is far fetched to say we (I imagine only if we like animals and can empathise with protagonists) as viewers are awestruck by this clever little cat that decides to carpe diem – it must get the oxytocin and the cortisol going. The cortisol when we see his dead end life at the start, and the oxytocin when we see it grab life by the Frisbee. 

If you want a non-animal version of this same advert, you can watch the film below. The video has the same pattern: compares boredom with awe and tells us why humans will do anything for a bit of awe!