W h y   v i d e o s   s e l l

Why does film work? The psychology of emotion and engagement. I was wandering through Tesco the other day and started to wonder where all these brands had come from. Some had been around for a long time but there were other newer ones all jockeying for shelf space. I quickly became aware of just how important TV advertising has been for all of the successful merchandise on display. This led me to realise that it is in fact TV advertising that has been largely responsible for much of the success of multinational corporations and global brand names from Coca Cola to Microsoft. An appreciation of these companies and their trademarks and what they now stand for can be traced directly back to years of investment in TV ad campaigns.
But why? Why should a ceaseless stream of these little films lead to such success. Why is television so popular at all? To answer this question you have to go back in time. Back by at least 30,000 years, to when we were all hunter-gatherers in the jungle. In this environment being able to spot even the tiniest movement was critically important to survival. Evolution gave us this ability so we could either spot our lunch or avoid being someone else’s lunch. Gradually evolution allowed us to develop language but without our already well-developed ability to recognise and distinguish between tiny movements, language would not have developed into such a rich expression of thought. How are the two linked? Well, there are roughly 40 muscles in the human face. But various combinations of these muscles produce over 10,000 different facial expressions. It is through this huge palate of appearances that we learnt how to communicate and still do to this day. When we speak, we look to see the reaction on others’ faces. Are they listening? Are they following our ideas? Do they accept what we are saying?
There is an apocryphal story amongst psychologists that only 7% of what we communicate is with actual words. A further 37% is with inflection: the musical tone and nuance of delivered speech (which is why we can understand when a Chinese person is angry even if we have no better knowledge of Chinese than a takeaway menu). But the largest proportion of what we communicate is delivered by our body language and facial expression. This is the most primal means of communication and is just as valid today.
Professor Robert Winston recently presented a fascinating series on BBC radio that looked at the science and origins of music. Apparently, research had recently shown that an appreciation of music probably preceded spoken language in the development of the human brain. The part of the brain that responds to music is at a deeper level (and therefore developed first) than the part that processes speech. There is probably much more research to be done in this area, but film makers know just how massive is the contribution made by music. If you want proof, watch the landscapes in “Dances With Wolves” with no sound, just to see how dull the majestic, sweeping prairies are without John Barry’s Oscar-winning, sweeping score.
All of which brings me back to why film works. It works because it engages in a way that no other medium can. We see and follow images that move just as we do in real life. And we react to them. No wonder toddlers are glued to TV. No wonder teenagers cannot be separated from video games. They are all learning about interaction through movement and our emotional response to it all.

< This was Sainsbury’s principal Christmas film in 2014. It appeals directly to the emotions in a highly sophisticated way. Online video content can be just as powerful. (film by AMV BBDO)


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