Advertising, at its best, is an art form. It is a unique form of storytelling that needs to hook a customer’s interest almost immediately. In addition, to give them a feeling of satisfaction that will leave them positively disposed towards the product in question.

The Three-Act Structure

It is one of the oldest forms of storytelling – The Epic of Gilgamesh, a 4,000 year old epic poem. Generally considered the earliest example of narrative fiction, follows the structure.

At its core, the Three-Act Structure is simple, consisting of a Setup, a Confrontation, and a Resolution. Or, as legendary Hollywood director Billy Wilder is reputed to have put it: “in the first act you put your character up in a tree, in the second act you set the tree on fire, and in the third you get him down.”

It’s such a simple concept, and yet it has infinite applications. Consider George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’. His first book ‘A Game of Thrones’, acts as the Setup (or Act I). After that it’s layer after layer of Confrontation (or Act II) for a further five books, with the final book in the series being (we hope) the Resolution (or Act III) of everything that has come so far.

From a decades-spanning epic to a two-minute advertising spot, it really works for multiple applications. Consider the John Lewis Christmas adverts, a perennial highlight of the British festive calendar. In 2015 they gave us ‘The Man on the Moon’. In this advert, a young girl looks through her telescope to see a lonely old man on the moon (the setup). She tries, in vain, to attract his attention (confrontation), and finally, she sends him a telescope, so he can look back down and see her (resolution).

The structure is as old as storytelling itself, and is something we recognise at an innate level. This makes it uniquely satisfying, whether you’re telling a story, selling a product… or both.

To find out how effective the Three-Act Structure can be, why not contact us today for top quality video marketing in Bristol and the South West?

Jo Oct 18th, 2017

About Jo Haywood

Jo is the Managing Director at Skylark Media. Before starting Skylark in 2005, Jo ran the BBC Lifestyle website and prior to that directed science documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4. To switch off she can be found on the tennis court, at yoga, or planting trees in the forest garden.