The Coinbase Superbowl ad reminded me of a virus.
Not because the ad went viral. Duh.
But because the ad stripped down the story to its most basic ingredient.
But first. What is the human body?
An incredibly complex yet wondrous marvel of bio-chemical engineering composed of a skeleton and organs and bones and tissue all working together in perfect harmony.
But what are all *these* made of? Every body part is just a collection of cells. The cell is the basic unit of life.
And so, some creatures like bacteria are like, "hey, why bother to evolve into these complex multi-organ creatures? Let's keep things simple and live as a single cell"
So there we have it - the unicellular creature is the most stripped down version of life!
A virus looks at a cell and says: "Dude, why so complex?"
"You need to multiply right? For that you just need some instructions to copy yourself (some DNA or RNA will do) and have a basic protective coating around it... That's all we need!"
So the virus - which lives on the edge of life - can be regarded as the most stripped-down version of life. And its core ingredient: DNA (or RNA, as is the case for Covid-19)
Coming back, what's the most stripped-down version/core ingredient of a story?
Some might say, every story needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end.
(Gosh, that's SO helpful. Not).
Some would say it needs a clear narrative arc. Like the Hero's Journey. Or the SCQA model.
But why do we need these frameworks?
Because a story makes a promise at the beginning - this will be worth your while, so stay on till the end. A story tries to hold your fickle attention.
And in doing so, every story relies on one key emotion.
Curiosity is like the DNA in a story. Not that its replicable, but because it's the most core ingredient that gives it life.
So, to craft a compelling story, you could
- Start with a cold open
- Create relatable characters
- Make them go on a perilous journey
- Build up to a compelling climax and
- End with satisfying redemption
Or, if you are Coinbase, you can just say:
"Chuck it, let's give them $15 of free Bitcoin and make them curious."
And so, in the latest Superbowl, viewers were stunned to see a 60-sec Coinbase ad with NOTHING BUT A BOUNCING QR CODE on the screen.
No stars, no fancy locales, no rousing music.
Just good ol' curiosity.
As you'd expect, folks scanned it and were led to a site where they could get the free BTC if they registered on Coinbase.
Result: The Coinbase site saw more traffic than ever (over 20M hits in a minute).
The Coinbase ad worked because it stripped down a story to its essence. Curiosity.
No wonder it went viral.
Hat tip: Shivram Lakshminarayanan for giving me this idea and telling me: "You should write about the Coinbase ad in your sotd series. Works on principles of norm deviation and on building curiosity".
Is it a coincidence that Shiva is an ex-participant from my storytelling course? :)