2014-12-13 Andrius Grigorjevas

The old GE secret to great storytelling

After writing the post about “My mom’s motorcycle” I decided to revisit some old favorites of mine and to see made those commercials function as excellent stories. One of these oldies – GENERAL ELECTRIC’S advertising “Catch the Wind”.

The trick with this one is that it doesn’t just just one story, but a couple of different ones. Advertising works here at it’s best by using the limited time available to provide the viewers with an archive of stories that you can unpack.

In this way commercials functions similarly to poetry (pardon the expression) as it acts as a container of meaning that has more than meets the eye.



The literal story is something you find on the surface of the text


And on the surface the story is about the boy who wants to give his relatives an extraordinary gift – the wind. The surprise element resides in the fact that the boy actually manages to deliver the wind to the birthday party – something that nobody could have hoped for. But this is only the beginning. A great story should deliver much more than that.



If we look at the main characters in the story and see them as a part of their representative groups, we are dealing with a different story. Thematic story is bound in context. We are not merely looking at the characters, but at the roles they are playing. And this particular role context can be uncovered through a set of oppositions:

young vs old (the young generation doing the impossible vs the older generation witnessing the impossible)
mountains vs sea (two distinct spaces that help to emphasize the length of the journey and the notion that even the even most opposite of things can be united in a single concept)
dynamic vs static (the moving individuals vs the static and sedentary elders)
culture vs nature (the wind brought from the seashore, domain free of human activity, to the domain of the humans)
open vs closed (the open nature space vs the closed space of the farmstead house that is left semi-open by the wind)

So the story turns into a story about two generations: one driven by the belief and determination, the other one – by tradition and slight skepticism.



The packshot in the end reveals landscape with wind turbines and allows us to understand the story in a different way. The curious bit is that the packshot is embedded not exactly at the very end of the commercial, but at in the middle of the celebration scene. This doesn’t seem as much, but we have to take notice that the actual product becomes embedded in the story world even though we know that it doesn’t belong there.

And this changes the whole game. The thematic story of different generations and the conflict between the possibility and belief is turned into a story about technology and the ways it is being delivered and accepted. The boy is indeed not a boy and the poeple accepting the wind are not just village relatives.

Stories can be unpacked and one of the features of a great story is how much can we find once we do that. Great advertising rewards those who stick with it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


communication field and its problems never cease to amaze me - the truly brilliant thing is that there are no final answers. I don't understand anything, but I guess nobody does (there just a moderate degree of success in pretending that they do). If you have challenges, questions, topics, themes or projects - contact me and maybe we can crack them together. Andrius