Four key ways to optimise a script for research

We do a lot of comms work, so have a lot of conversations about how to make scripts research-ready, to offer the best chance of people ‘getting it’.

Since scripts start life within a creative agency, are then shared with clients and often have a director in mind from the start, they usually reach us in a form that is perfect for those settings – but not perfect for sharing with consumers.

Over the years we’ve learned some key ways to avoid the pitfalls that can trip consumers up or get in the way of a really meaningful response, so we thought we’d share our 4 key do’s and don’ts:

1. Don’t use camera instructions (or other jargon)

Camera instructions are vital at the point of making the film, obviously, but at the point of imagining seeing an ad on a TV or laptop, they get in the way. This is because they put the viewer behind the lens, in a third-person ‘dissociated’ (less emotional) observer position, when we want them to be able to engage in the story in a first-person ‘associated’ (more emotional) way. Camera instructions risk taking people outside the story, rather than into it.

The same is true of jargon. Hearing it can jar, distract or flip people out of home mode into work mode.

2. Do stick to telling the story of what people will see and hear

The most effective format is describing in very simple terms only what people will see and hear. This way, there is nothing to get in the way of them fully engaging in imagining a finished film.

3. Don’t mention anything the viewer won’t already know

When people see an ad in the real world, unless it specifically tells them someone’s name, or where a place is, they won’t know it – so telling them creates an un-real experience of the ad and can pull focus in unhelpful ways. For example:

‘Our girl, Rachel, is walking to work’. Who’s Rachel? Is her name significant in some way? How is she ‘ours’? All of which takes people away from just experiencing the film. Better to keep it simple, e.g. ‘We see a young woman walking to work

‘We are in Paris’ (or worse, ‘we open in Paris’). How do I know this is Paris? What does ‘open’ mean? Better to stick to telling people what they’ll see e.g. ‘We see a busy café with tables on the pavement and a sign above that says ‘Café de Paris’

4.   Don’t tell people what to think or feel

Sometimes copy aims to describe what’s happening in a vivid way but, in doing so, inadvertently tells people what to think or feel. For example:

He’s unsure why this is happening and moves around in an amusing way’  How do we know he’s unsure? How do you know I find it amusing? ‘They’re wearing delightfully colourful clothes’ Who says the colours are delightful? You or me?

The key point big issue here is that we need to know what the viewer thinks and feels, rather than not lead them to what we want them to think/feel. And, more importantly, we need to know what they would spontaneously think and feel, if they saw the ad in real life – because a key thing we always need to know is whether an ad is communicating and engaging people as intended.

Which takes us right back to point 2: better to describe in simple terms what people will see and hear and find out what effect this does elicit for them, emotionally as well as rationally.

So, the examples above might become: ‘He has a hesitant look on his face and tiptoes around in a wobbly way’ or ‘‘they’re wearing very bright, colourful clothes’ (and we’re then listening out for the emotional reactions: is the wobbling amusing, and do the colourful clothes elicit a delightful feeling?)

To talk to us about this and the ways we approach comms research for optimum effect, feel free to get in touch direct on 07710 946493

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