Jon Thomas
Jon Thomas
Communications Director

This Video Will Break Your Heart, but is it Effective Brand Storytelling?

ISPCCA recent video came across my Twitter stream that had me thinking about effective storytelling in advertising. The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children created a shocking, emotional, and heart-wrenching video for their summer fundraising campaign entitled “I Can’t Wait To Grow Up.” It’s narrated by a 7 year-old boy while he is simultaneously being beaten by a man whose face is never seen.

The campaign is about how childhood is supposed to be one of the happiest and safest times in life, yet for many Irish children who contact Childline, this is simply not the case. If this video is any indication, that would be an understatement.

The spot in its entirety is moving, to say the least. My heart broke for the boy who was obviously helpless — a prisoner of abuse in his own household. The content had spread virally to me, and with over 500,000 views, it’s obviously a success from an awareness perspective. None of their other three videos have topped the 10,000 view mark.

But is it effective from a branded storytelling perspective? If so, what makes it effective? Is it enough to just pull at your heartstrings? Does the boy’s message cut through the powerful visual story?

This is one of those questions that I’m not sure I have the answer for. Ultimately, branded content has to nudge a reader to an action, whether it’s to buy a product or donate money to their nonprofit. Is this video effective brand storytelling? Let me know what you think in the comments.

For a behind-the-scenes look at the making of this video, check out this AdWeek post.

  • Barbara Peck

    This reminds me of the Australian antismoking ad that showed a kid abandoned in a train station.  Just as heartbreaking, and controversial–especially because in that case it wasn’t as clear that the child was acting. Effective, though–I did remember what the ad was for!

  • Jon Thomas

    Wow…I just watched that video. Pretty powerful as well. 

  • Tyler Young

    This hard to watch video delivers its message well. The narration is not overpowered by the brutal actions. The dialogue is delivered clearly and in between the harsh, loud actions so that you can focus and understand everything that is said. Furthermore,  the way it is shot, (eye contact with audience, unseen adult figure) the viewer instantly connects with the boy. Through the cringe-causing abuse, there is still a tone of hope and courageous endurance from the boy - particularly when he fixes his jacket at the end. This arrangement makes the piece particularly effective and invokes a powerful emotional connection. Its certainly difficult to watch, but it succeeds in delivering its message. 
     As soon as the video finished, I had the urge to donate – which is a sign of its success as a story.