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In the ever-evolving world of advertising, writing engaging and authentic dialogue stands as a paramount task. This compilation delves into insights from seasoned professionals across the advertising industry, who share their wisdom on crafting effective dialogue in advertising. From making dialogue reflect the real world to considering brand essence and audience understanding, these experts reveal their tips and tricks for creating memorable dialogues in commercials. Uncover how they navigate the challenge of fitting impactful, believable conversations within the fleeting timespan of an ad.

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Key Takeaways

  • Dialogue should be grounded in authenticity, reflecting the natural conversation style of real people.
  • Good dialogue writing involves understanding of the characters, constant writing, reading aloud, and acting out lines.
  • Writers should focus on authenticity, strategic positioning of key messages, and the fine balance of being trendy and timeless.

From Faux Dialogues To Real Conversations

Matt Lever, Chief Creative Officer at BMB, expresses dissatisfaction over the quality of dialogue in British advertising. For two decades, he’s been puzzled by the unnatural, unrealistic dialogue used in ads, comparing it unfavorably to the authentic and intentional dialogue in American advertising. Lever believes that good dialogue should reflect the natural conversation style of real people, which often includes awkward pauses, interjections, and even bad language.

In a recent project for BMB, a WhatsApp drama series named ‘The Chat’ for Breast Cancer Now, the team wrote and refined 1,293 pieces of dialogue over six weeks. This task involved creating authentic conversations between four best friends navigating an unexpected breast cancer diagnosis via WhatsApp video messages, voice notes, and texts. Ensuring each character’s dialogue was believable, they utilized multiple table reads, revisions, and even actor adlibs during the shoot. Lever stresses that this effort to make the dialogue as real as possible was essential due to the gravity of the subject matter.

Finally, Lever advises aspiring writers to draw inspiration from the wealth of excellent dialogue available in modern media. He recommends watching ‘Succession’ for drama, ‘The Office’ for comedy, and ‘Bluey’ for its overall brilliance.

Chrystel Jung, Creative Director at BETC Paris, explains that writing dialogue is one of the most challenging aspects of a copywriter’s job. As per Jung, there is no universal formula for writing good dialogue, as it largely depends on various factors including the message, emotions, creative idea, genre, duration, and client constraints. The first step in writing effective dialogue involves creating character backstories and understanding their relationships.

In advertising, brevity is crucial due to time constraints, and often visuals can help convey the message without unnecessary dialogue. Jung highlights the importance of using silences, looks, and actions to tell the story. Examples like Starburst’s ‘Acid’ commercial show how simple dialogue can effectively work alongside visuals.

The key to crafting natural sounding dialogue involves constant writing, reading aloud, and acting out lines to ensure rhythm and believability. Despite the need for authenticity, Jung mentions that in some cases, absurd dialogue can be used creatively, as demonstrated in Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival’s ‘Cat with a Pipe’ commercial. Thus, writing dialogue is a demanding process requiring understanding of characters, creativity, and extensive practice.

Listen More To Write Better

Olivia Downing, an Associate Creative Director at Continuous, offers valuable advice on how to craft effective and authentic dialogue for commercials.

Downing begins her guidance by emphasizing the importance of listening to real conversations. According to her, one should tune into the nuances of real-world dialogues to steer clear of writing content that lacks authenticity. Taking a page out of H.P. Lovecraft’s book, she advises against writing in a style that disconnects from how people actually converse, highlighting the role of authenticity in good dialogue writing.

She moves onto the differentiation between brand voices and human characters. Downing insists that while narrators can carry the brand’s voice and tone, characters should talk like everyday people, not as brand mascots. This distinction aids in delivering the brand’s key information without losing the human touch, keeping the audience engaged.

Next, she brings up the concept of ‘Always be closing’, echoing screenwriter Richard Curtis’s method of reminding the audience about the core message. For commercials, she suggests distilling the ad’s essence into a single, powerful line placed towards the end, clarifying the brand or product’s takeout for the audience.

The fourth point deals with the use of slang. Downing suggests using slang sparingly, as overly trendy language can date an ad quickly. Rather, using familiar phrases and natural language keeps the content fresh and relatable without seeming cringe-worthy or outdated over time.

Finally, Downing advises on the value of reading the script aloud. This practice allows writers to spot the areas where they need to refine the script to sound more organic and human-like. Reading aloud helps identify awkward phrases, lengthy sentences, and places where visual cues might replace words.

In essence, Downing’s advice encourages writers to focus on authenticity, strategic positioning of key messages, and the fine balance of being trendy and timeless, to create compelling commercial dialogue.

Maris Silis, Creative Director at Cheil UK, believes that effective dialogue writing for brands begins with understanding the brand’s essence. Whether through a well-crafted brand book or personal insight, diving into the brand’s persona can guide the style of dialogue—be it serious, humorous, or quirky. Silis emphasizes the importance of realism in dialogue, advocating for active listening to real conversations for inspiration. Translating brand messaging in a way that resonates with the audience is key. Lastly, he encourages writers to read their dialogue aloud, catching awkward phrasing or unnatural exchanges early in the process, rather than in the recording studio.

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Mark Maziarz, Group Creative Director at Battery, shares a few key insights from his experience in dialogue writing. Firstly, he advises avoiding unnecessary use of names in short scripts, as these can consume precious seconds that could be better utilized. When writing for a known person, Maziarz suggests not to overemphasize their nuances, but instead to study their pattern of speech and dynamics to write effectively.

He also discourages the use of overused tropes and outdated dialogue, likening it to AI-generated stand-up comedy. Instead, he encourages writers to adopt a fresh, unique approach. He emphasizes the importance of considering character relationships and how they might alter the way characters speak to each other, advocating for complexity even within short scripts.

Lastly, Maziarz advises to overwrite for oneself, allowing for personal creativity to shine through. In conclusion, his tips center around efficient use of time in scripts, understanding and respecting the voice of known personalities, avoiding cliches, creating complex characters, and allowing personal creativity to flourish in dialogue writing.

The Devil Is In The Details

Three advertising professionals offer unique insights into dialogue writing. Michelle Fischer, Group Creative Director at Battery, emphasizes the importance of brevity and visual support. She suggests starting mid-conversation and avoiding excessive exposition, giving examples like Geico’s rhetorical question campaign as an instance of delivering the key message early.

Brooke Estell, a Senior Copywriter at Conscious Minds, stresses the importance of authenticity and understanding the brand. She warns against using slang or colloquialisms that can be easily misused, making the dialogue feel inauthentic. Instead, she recommends creating a detailed persona for the brand to guide the voice and tone of the dialogue. She highlights the need for research in understanding both the target audience and the brand.

Rens de Jonge, Creative Director at KesselsKramer, argues that silence plays a crucial role in dialogue. He believes that the pauses between words give depth and resonance to the dialogue. De Jonge notes the diminishing presence of dialogue in advertising due to the rapid pace of modern life, and the shift towards monologues reflecting our increasingly digital, fragmented world. Citing the campaign for the Dutch Suicide Prevention Helpline as an example, he advocates for dialogue as a tool to foster connection and empathy in a distracted society.

In conclusion, these professionals advocate for brevity, authenticity, brand understanding, effective use of silence, and dialogue’s potential to connect in their dialogue writing strategies.

Write With Purpose For People

Sara Uhelski, Associate Creative Director at Camp + King, stresses the “show, don’t tell” rule, considering dialogue as a last resort in scriptwriting. She believes conversations should occur when there’s a clear motivation, and reminds that we often don’t have time for small talk or random observations in the limited time frame of an ad. Uhelski encourages starting with the scene and backstory before considering dialogue, and to drop unnecessary preambles. She underscores the importance of realistic dialogue and suggests listening to people’s actual conversations for inspiration.

John Hale, Senior Creative at Forever Audio, observes that many ads contain unnatural, scripted dialogues. He urges that real conversations are filled with emotions and don’t usually include jargon or unnatural brand promotion. Hale advises dividing dialogue wisely, letting the brand voice deliver technical details, while characters express emotions. He also emphasizes the importance of acknowledging diversity in accents for more realistic dialogue.

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Stephanie Granado, Associate Director of Copy and Storytelling at THE 3RD EYE, likens good dialogue to good copy, which requires an understanding of both the brand and the audience. She emphasizes the necessity of adjusting language according to the audience and encourages exploring social media, blogs, and forums to understand how audiences communicate. Granado affirms that understanding language nuances and technical elements of the brand is crucial in crafting engaging, relevant dialogues.

Overall, these professionals advocate for minimalistic, motivated, and realistic dialogue that is appropriately tailored to various audience groups, promoting authenticity in scriptwriting.

Debunking Common Myths About Crafting Conversations

Crafting conversations, especially in the context of advertising and media, is often surrounded by a host of misconceptions that can hinder the creative process.

Myth 1

The first myth is the idea that good dialogue must be grandiose and packed with intricate language. This is a fallacy. Authenticity is the foundation of effective dialogue. Characters need to talk like real people, using simple, everyday language. It’s the relatability and emotional connection evoked by these normal conversations that resonate with audiences. Trying to embellish dialogue with complex phrases or jargon can make the conversation seem artificial and disconnected from reality.

Myth 2

Another myth is that characters in a dialogue should always speak in complete sentences. In reality, our everyday conversations are riddled with incomplete sentences, interjections, and pauses. Replicating this natural flow of speech in dialogue not only adds to its realism but also brings the characters to life.

Myth 3

Many believe that all dialogue must drive the plot forward. While it’s true that dialogue should contribute to the overall story, it can also be used to build character depth, create mood, or provide context. Not every line has to be tied to the plot.

Myth 4

Another common misconception is that good dialogue must be meticulously planned and cannot deviate from the script. While planning is essential, flexibility can foster authenticity. Allowing for some degree of improvisation during the dialogue delivery can help capture the unpredictability and spontaneity of real-life conversations.

Myth 5

The myth of verbosity, or the idea that more dialogue is always better, also needs debunking. Brevity is a virtue in crafting conversations. Dialogue should be concise, clear, and purposeful, especially in advertising where time is of the essence. A dialogue filled with unnecessary chatter may detract from the main message and lose the audience’s attention.

Myth 6

Lastly, there’s a myth that dialogue must be written in a formal, literary style. However, dialogue should reflect the speech patterns of the characters, which may involve colloquialisms, regional dialects, and even slang. While trendy language should be used sparingly to avoid dating the script, a touch of informality can make dialogue feel more genuine and relatable.

By debunking these myths, writers can craft conversations that are not only effective but also resonate with audiences on a deeper, more authentic level.

Read more:

Writing Skills in Higher Education Deteriorate? A Professor’s View On the Problem  

Acing Your Next Essay: Academic Writing Tips of the Month

Artificial Intelligence and Creativity: Coexistence or Clash?

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