Week 2: The New Batch (of assignments)

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Week 2: The New Batch (of assignments) was another fun and interesting week. If I had to pick a theme for my blog this week i’d say it was food which is fine, as long as it is not consumed after midnight.

I started the week off by refreshing my memory about layering in images and audio. I’ve done enough work with Photoshop to be dangerous and I’ve done basic audio editing using Adobe Audition so the term layering isn’t foreign to me.

A missed opportunity for an example of layering is 80’s clothing. I’m kidding and wanted an excuse to put this photo into my blog.

Cool-60s-Fashion-Trends-e1367201608821

The use of audio to enhance storytelling was evident in the Doppelgangers radio show I listened to. Both stories, though very different, used audio to enhance the storytelling. The first story was a humorous tale about the pork industry’s attempt to pass off pork as imitation Calamari. This goes along with the food theme for the week. Audio was added to enhance humor and the element of realism. The second was about two young men battling PTSD. Audio was added to emphasize points of transition and sympathy. To read more about either story visit my blog.

The second task of the week was to analyze a commercial that used storytelling. I’ll give you one guess to pick what the topic of my commercial blog was? Give up, it was food, more specifically a taco. The key takeaway from this assignment was storytelling can be used effectively in commercials but the objective of the story should not be forgotten.

My thoughts on feedback are still a work in progress. I enjoy reading my classmate’s blogs and find them interesting and thought provoking. I hope they feel the same way about mine. Bottom line, keep the feedback and comments coming!

Feedback on Feedback

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It’s been interesting to see my other classmate’s blogs. I think I’m being a little overly detailed perhaps but I’ve always been a little too wordy for my own good.

I found that most of the posts I read were very relatable and I had similar reactions to the other writers. Three out of four of us used the same key words when we described storytelling for example. Three out of three of us picked commercials about food, two were about NBA stars.

This makes we wondered if our company picks like-minded people or if most people tend to write similar descriptions?  I think I’ll have more to write about this next week when more people have provided comments on my blog.

A story you can really sink your teeth into

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I have a confession to make. I love Taco Bell. Recently they ran a campaign to market their new XXL Steak Crispy Taco using NBA star Nate Robinson. In the words of a this former Marketing Major, I’m fairly certain I’m not in the target market for this product but I think the commercial follows the classic storytelling pattern, at least for the first 15 seconds. In an effort to really analyze Nate’s story and watch more taco bell goodness I dissected the video three different ways.

Act 1: Free throw

The first analysis was after watching the video once. I’ll be honest, I’ve seen this commercial before, but this is my first careful viewing.

This story starts off of a fairly high point; our character is a point guard in the NBA. It takes him down a notch by showing the audience that he was faced with a challenge of being small but overcame it and took on big things along the way. We end up with him being able to handle all of the challenges associated with being an NBA players and tackling a large taco.

story shape

Act 2: Well contested jump shot

Now I want take a look at the story at a more granular level. To do this I need to watch the story in 3-5 second segments.

Piano music starts playing and we hear subtle audience cheers…The first 3 seconds the narrator introduces the audience to Nate Robinson, pint sized point guard. The first scene shows Nate front and center strutting confidently in his NBA uniform with two much larger teammates being him. – key takeaway, “Nate is the man”.

The next three seconds we see young Nate front and center, building a massive Lego tower to the sounds of children lauging in the background as the narrator introduces us to the fact the Nate has always taken on big things.

This is reinforced with images of 10 year old Nate marching in a middle school band proudly playing the tuba (sound and all) as the narrator says, he has never been intimidated by big things in seconds 7-9.

The next three seconds are a bit of a blur, we see a 12/13 year old Nate dribble through a crown of kids and jump up and dunk to the sound of ooos and awwws as the narrator says, In Fact….

The next few seconds show 12/13 year old Nate, again front and center, proudly dancing with a much talker girl as the narrator reads, he embraced them. (get it, embraced them and he embraces the girl, ha)

At the 14 – 19 second point we see Nate, eating a large taco in the locker room (I’m sure this happens all the time) while his NBA teammates are going about their business. At Nate takes a bite of the delicious taco (lots of crunching) out narrator informs is that for Nate, taking down the ultimate steak taco was no big deal.

And finally at the 20 second mark, we are brought back to reality. This music stops – abruptly. As the narrator reads “you” we see an image of a somewhat dorky regular fellow in the locker room holding the same taco looking very concerned. Then Nate Strolls by, and the regular fellow stares in awe as the narrator informs the audience that we “are not Nate Robinson.”

The next 5-6 seconds feature a large images of the Taco with some rock music and “hardcore XXL lettering” as the narrator reminds us of the key marketing message, The new XXL Taco, Regular size for Nate Robinson, XXL for you.

The last few seconds the song continues and we see the taco bell logo and hear the Bell sound.

Act 2 Continued:The Assist

If Nate were a superhero his story would be something like this…

Once upon a time there was a pint sized point guard named Nate Robinson.

Every day, he was faced with big things.

One day, he built a giant block tower.

Because of that, he was given the confidence to take on more big things like playing the tuba.

Because of that, he was given the confidence to take on more big things, and even embrace them like dancing with a taller girl.

Until finally he was able to tackle eating a giant taco bell taco (and make it to the NBA)

Act 3: Drained it from way downtown

Having watched this commercial several times the key message was the same every time I watched it. The story is simple and easy to follow. I noticed more detailed elements of the story and some of the puns like embracing, as well as the intricacies like the use of music. Putting on my marketing hat for a second I think that is exactly what commercials should do. If the story is amazing and the audience doesn’t understand what the call to action is (or what the product is) they missed the point. In fact, I remember discussing several commercial in a marketing class that was really interesting to watch but I had no idea what I was supposed to want to buy after watching it.

The key takeaway I have from this is storytelling should be used as a tool to engage/relate to the audience but the objective of selling the product should not be forgotten. If I can run with that idea for a moment, the same is true for designing training. The story should be a means to explain a concept to a learner or teach them but the story must enhance the learning in some way or contribute to the learner experience. It can’t simply be for the sake of a story.

Side note, I hope someone noticed I named my sections based on the number of points those baskets are worth.

I’ll pass on the Calamari

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I started by listening to Doppelgangers because I the title captured my interest. After all, who hasn’t been told they resemble someone else? Most recently I’ve been told I look like Zosia Mamet best known for her role in Girls. Sorry gang, my agent won’t allow me to post my real picture.

Zosia Mamet

The story started off with “Ira Glass” talking about Doppelgangers, then the audience finds out that the person speaking is in fact not Ira Glass but Fred Armisen,  a comedian from Saturday Night Live and Portlandia imitating Ira Glass. I haven’t listened to Ira Glass to know how good the impression was but it lead to an interesting conversation between Ira and Ira’s impersonator.

After the brief conversation they cut to an audio clip from a Saturday Night Live skit where Fred is pretending to be Ira. The skit is abruptly halted and Fred and Ira continue to speak. The show continues with a format where a brief part of the skit is played loudly then shifted to the background at Ira and Fred analyze various aspects of the skit and the current state of NPR’s funding. As she show continues Fred in Character as Ira and Ira continue to alternate speaking so it’s difficult for the listening to distinguish who is who.They decide to host the show together and sound effects like rustling paper are heart in the background.

The first featured story was about pork bung, yes pork bung, being substituted for calamari. The host spoke to a man who worked in a pork plan and the man informed the host (and audience) that pork bung was used as imitation calamari in China. Our host did additional research with the USDA which was inconclusive at best. They key point is that food is often mislabeled (as much at 55% of fish is mislabeled in LA). Initial research showed that China was the most likely place where “bung” could be sold at calamari, thankfully not the US. Fortunately, a rare food expert confirmed that although bung has some of the same consistency properties as calamari it would be difficult to make it taste as delectable, to put it nicely. In conclusion, although the man who worked in a pork plant said it was happening, it doesn’t appear that anyone with discerning taste buds could be fooled. I’m going to consider this Myth Busted! myth busted A few key elements of sound that were included in the story were:

  • Narration over the sound of restaurant “hustle and bustle”
  • Phone dial tone and distortion of person’s voice “on the line” to make it sound like they were on the phone (to make it seem more realistic)
  • Music playing while the narrator explains what “pork bung” looks like and how much “pork bung” we’ve eaten (to lighten the mood perhaps?)
  • Music playing as the narrator read disturbing stats about food being mislabeled and no one catching it/any time something seems “silly”

The Second story has a much different tone, more serious. The story was about two young men who both had PTSD. Both men has very different experiences, one was a soldier in Afghanistan, the other, a drug dealer in the inner city Philadelphia. Despite each having unique experiences they shared several similarities in both story and the way they dealt with their experiences. Key audio elements included:

  • Narrator was the primary storyteller who offered color commentary and teed up the story
  • Music played at transition points below the narrators reading
  • First person storytelling with highly sensitive audio recording so the listener can see the inflection in the storyteller’s voice
  • The main story was told in the voice on young men then we heard the other young man share a similar experience to help the audience see the parallels between the stories
  • Music was played beneath the young men’s voices  to emphasize emotional points/make the listener think