Dec 9, 2013

Copy Killed The Video Star

For those of you with a few specks of sexy in your hair (speaking as a budding Silver Fox), you remember the minute MTV burst onto the scene. A video featuring a strange little girl, Star Trek-y costumes, and an exploding radio visually accompanied The Buggles “Video Killed The Radio Star” and our lives—and eyes— were never the same.


But since 1981, video has evolved. What used to be a way to flick off the establishment has become a pet of “The Man.” Corporations have embraced the format whole-heartedly; using video to launch brands, train employees, and sell cases to anyone on YouTube. And the results are wack.

WTF happened?

With all due respect to my copywriting friends, I think it’s the words. Too many words. Video is a visual medium, and self-indulgent scripts that drone on with their see-and-say exposition kill me.

What if a few little credos of hard-core editing could help the video star shine again?


Resist the urge to stuff your script with big data and stiff, white-guy brand-speak. To create a lasting impression, stop “talking” and start “showing.”

Before your next production, scan through your script and highlight everything that you can show. Then delete what you highlighted. Bam. This simple exercise can help you reduce your copy to what needs to be said, leaving the rest up to the brilliance of human senses.

This isn't just some crap that I'm making up, its proven by SCIENCE!

Scientific studies have shown that a human brain is way more likely to remember a picture over a piece of text. Look it up. Google it. Then draw a picture. It’s called the Pictorial Superiority Effect, and it’s still debated as to why this happens.  The idea gains even more traction when you read books like Moonwalking With Einstein which delves into the world of competitive memory (yeah, this is actually a thing). Gamers capture information by creating pictures in their brains to see who can remember the most content.


Words have value, and some are, in fact, heavier. Discover them. Befriend them. And remember that the name of the game when scriptwriting for advertising is “word economy.”

After you write a rough draft, read it out loud and start eliminating words that seem cumbersome. Then have several other people read it and believe them when they say, “I don’t know. This part seems a bit wordy.” Then get to work. Cut. Hack. Kill your babies and don’t look back. You’re whittling your way to a script that makes sense.

If your looking for a good resource to become better at the Cut. Hack. Kill part, check out Copyblogger There's always a good post on becoming a better writer.

So when it comes to video, tell your stories visually. Edit scripts or voice-overs unmercifully. And when in doubt, blow up a radio.

Brandon Faris

Brandon Faris

Film Director