(ABOVE: My furry friends, Jackie and Frankie, LOVE their time at the park. Jackie rides in the trailer in the background. She also wears a sweater sometimes because she gets chilly. Yeah, I know.)
Storytelling. It’s everything. EV-ER-Y-THING. Whether you’re voicing a one-day-only sale for a single location furniture store in a tiny off-the-map town or a national Super Bowl spot or narrating a documentary. Whether you’re sound designing a YouTube video that might get 50 views. Whether you’re creating a motion graphics piece for Microsoft that the world will see. Whether you’re selling Girl Scout cookies door-to-door. (Is that still done or do they do what happens in my town which is to set up outside Publix or on the sidewalk in Carytown?) It’s all storytelling. And storytelling is about connection.
A common list of elements that go into storytelling include:
1. What is it about?
2. What do they want?
3. What do they do to get it?
4. Why does it or doesn’t it work?
5. What do they do about it?
Plot, setting, characters, point of view and conflict or tension.
Common formulas vary a little, but that’s essentially it. But the thing(s) that pulls us in more than almost anything else is when the elements matter to us. Can we relate to the story? Can we see ourselves in it? That’s the human element. And what makes us feel more human, more vulnerable, more emotional, more real, more alive than kids and pets? Let’s put the kid part aside for a moment since, well, kids are actually human. This space is not conducive to a debate on parenting or ethics so we’ll confine our narrative to pets. And when it comes to pets, pet owners know in the back of their minds, no matter how much they push it away that their time together is very, very limited. It’s temporary. So the love between pets and owners often burns white hot.
The APPA (American Pet Products Association) reports that pet industry sales rose to nearly $137 billion in 2022 and that pets are present in 66% of U.S. households. Many of those households likely had a tv on and tuned to the 2023 Super Bowl when everybody’s favorite Super Bowl spot aired – the Farmer’s Dog spots in which the loyal family dog joins the family as a puppy, becomes a full-fledged and very loved member of the family, shares experiences shown in montage as he grows up, and inevitably, grows old. We’re spared the emotional nuke of seeing the dog pass or any hint of it, but we surmise that it’s coming; sooner rather than later. And it’s something we ALL relate to. Cue the waterworks. Connection made. Bam. We all immediately think of our own pets and work hard to push out of our minds any notion of them not being with us forever. It’s powerful storytelling. And it’s all based on a true story. Director Goh Iromoto tells that story figuratively in the spot and literally in the article linked below.
No matter how big the budget of a movie telling stories about CGI superheroes or wizards or space villains and heroes, the stories that lean into and embrace their human-ness are the ones that grab us firmly and unrelentingly by the heartstrings and do not let go. We relate to the purity, simplicity and complexity of actually being human. And isn’t it funny that the creatures on this planet that make us feel most human – are animals? Animals that share our homes, our lives, our experiences and our hearts. And when we tell our stories, they’ll be some of the main characters.