The Motion of Emotion


I’ve been at this advertising thing for a little while. How long? Let’s just say, when I began my career, the most popular TV ads were the ones teasing the OJ Simpson verdict.

Back then, TV ads were shot on film. Editing a spot usually took days. And if you wanted your ad to look half-way decent, you were probably getting on a plane to Los Angeles.

My, how times have changed. Film is out, digital memory cards are in.

I’ve seen commercials edited while they’re still being shot (though, I do not recommend it.) 

And with video equipment and tools becoming more affordable and more accessible, many more talented professionals – like the ones I get to work with at LEAP Frame – can produce world-class videos affordably and efficiently.

Yes, video production has changed. But one thing has not: Since its inception, video has the power to elicit emotion better than any other medium. Which is why it’s been so incredibly popular since it was first introduced.

Video lets us connect to other people via our humanity. We see the look in people’s eyes. We hear the tone in their voice.  We see smiles, frowns, concerns, joy, fears.

The power of video: “See” and “Listen” for yourself.

Take the phrase, “See you later.” Now imagine it in these different situations. Imagine how the tone would change. How facial expressions would change. How the EMOTION would change. That’s the power of video.

  • Two high school kids going back to class after lunch. “See you later.”
  • After a long summer break with her kids complaining that they’re “soooo bored,” a gleeful mother takes the kids to the bus stop for the first day of school.“See you later!”
  • A man and woman break up. At the end of a long, painful conversation, one sadly says to the other, “See you later,” knowing full-well that they won’t be seeing each other later.
  • An old woman at her husband’s funeral. Bound by their love and faith in an afterlife, she tells him, “See you later.”

Moving pictures moving through time.

Video is just the modern way of communicating the things we used to communicate thousands of years ago – by telling stories.

It used to be stories around a fire, passing along the tribe’s morals and traditions.  Now, it’s video. Take a look at famous video through time.

Classic movies. Decades ago, films like Casablanca told us about the complexity of love and the importance of fighting for what you believe in.

TV shows. Growing up, I was glued to the original “Must See TV” Thursday night line-up where programs like The Cosby Show (ironically) taught family values and Cheers taught about friendship.

The best commercials, as seen on the internet. Today, longer-form ads like Google’s “Dear Sophie” demonstrate all the ways to use Google while making the omniscient tech giant seem downright lovable.

How has the digital world affected emotion in video?

  1. Shorter video formats (six seconds?!) make it much harder to be emotional. You’re probably not going to tell an emotional brand story in a few seconds. You may, however, spark intrigue and link to a longer video that has the power to make a stronger connection. Also, the power of music can help you quickly strike an emotional chord.
  2. The democratization of video. From influencers on YouTube to jokesters on Twitter, it’s easier than ever to put your message out there…and therefore harder to build an audience. If your video can create an emotion, whether it’s joy or anger, you’re more likely to get people to engage and share.
  3. There are new opportunities to be creative and emotional. To help educate today’s generation about the horrors of the Holocaust, “Eva’s story” (@eva.stories) was recently launched on Instagram. It shares the life of a Jewish teenage girl as if Instagram (and hashtags, emojis, Boomerangs, etc.) existed in Nazi Germany. It isn’t without controversy, but it demonstrates a new way to connect emotionally.

What does the future hold? Formats will change. Attention spans will flux. Algorithms will evolve. But humans will always be emotional beings, and emotion will always drive our decisions. Video is continually growing in importance online, and emotion is one of the major reasons.


When crafting video content for your brand, there’s really no hack for talent and vision. But there are a few tips and compelling questions you can ask that’ll get you about 95% of the way there – maybe even 96%.

See Brands as People.

Products don’t really matter, people do. Tap into that. Where does your brand and human emotions or conditions intersect? The human condition has been around – and will be around – much longer than any function your product can promise. Explore those conditions: oxygen, purpose, sex, belonging, love, pain and all other things human. Use them to inspire cut pace, coloring, narrative, music, camera-moves, lens choices and dialogue. Inanimate products don’t have a voice until we give them one. And the best part: There are as many voices as there are brands.

“One” is the Onlyest Number.

Pick one thing, one message, one trick – and bring in to life. Try to make that “one thing” different that your competitors “one thing.”

Block it in.

Think of this tip as an exercise of finding the sum with parts. Forget order, forget narrative and try to forget your budgets and deadlines (your PMs will remind you of that soon enough.) Get your thoughts (good and bad, relevant and irrelevant) on a post-its and arrange them. Then rearrange them. Then re-rearrange them again. Beautiful narratives don’t just fall out of your head like gumballs. They’re the composition of lots of tidbits and observations.


The relationship between brand truth’s and cultural trends should be perpetual. Find a way to match a popping trend to one of your brand’s core truths and you’ll find a relevant post. Work it more and it may even turn out relevant and memorable.