Jason Headley, Copywriter and Commercial Director – Branded Entertainment – Industry Interview

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This month in our Industry Interview we talk to Jason Headley about Branded Entertainment and how to improve your visual storytelling.

Jason Headley Tells Stories –  Stories specifically for brands. He freelances as copywriter and commercial director and has worked on many amazing branded entertainment properties with focus on new age commercials. Commercials that entertain, have you feel and laugh and connect with the brands perspective.

Novel Influence – You wrote a book ‘Small Town Odds’, How has writing this book improved your approach to storytelling?

Well, you don’t write a book by accident. So there were plenty of opportunities to try to figure out the story, then fail at that, then try again, then fail differently, and on and on. Eventually, I ended up with a story I can live with (and some writing I can’t). But it’s in print now and there’s no more time to fix the failures. In the end, writing that book taught me a lot about patience and trying to prepare as much as I can, then letting the story come to me if it cares to.

Novel Influence – What aspects have you found useful from your copywriting background when transferring your skill set to directing and writing commercials?

Having a tight script always comes in handy. I still pride myself on writing 30-second scripts, because in the end, it has to be a 30-second spot. I’ve seen a lot of writers shoot themselves in the foot by writing something that can’t be made. It’s just too long. So I try to make sure, if nothing else, we’ll have what’s on the page and it will fit within our allotted time on air. Then, when happy accidents come our way on set, we only have good problems.

Novel Influence – I really love the work you done for ancestry.com (The Eavesdropper) could you shed some light on why you approached the commercial the way you did? Why do you believe visual storytelling such as video sprinkled with humour works so well?

The most recent campaign for Ancestry was mean to stretch a little bit, to broaden the audience. So we wanted to try to poke around at the idea of these parts of ourselves that have always just been there. It was just a fun idea to show some of this behavior, then pay it off with a discovery that someone could find on the site. It’s just a nice, fun payoff if you follow the story of the commercial.

Novel Influence – What do you believe most brands don’t understand about storytelling? Especially their approach to visual aspects like commercials?

I think sometimes clients lose sight of the fact that buying the media doesn’t mean that people are instantly going to pay attention to your message. That’s just the ticket to a very loud and crowded party. Now you have to get people to pay attention to you. There are countless ways to do it. You can be charming, funny, cool, daring, whatever. But in the end, no one will hear what you had to say if you didn’t make them like you first.

Novel Influence – What is your opinion on ‘Why Stories Work?’

We all crave stories in all their forms. Obviously books, TV shows, and movies are stories. But sports are stories, too. They happen in real time and over the course of a season. The news is a story. What happened, and then what, and then what? And I think stories work best when they surprise us, teach us, and/or remind us. Life is full of lessons that we forget over and over again. I think we turn to our stories to help our poor, beleaguered brains remember those lessons that we would otherwise keep forgetting.

Novel Influence – If you could give brands and creatives some advice on improving their visual storytelling techniques what would it be?

I’m not much for advice in this realm. I just try to pay attention to what I like. Sometimes I like them because they’re things I think I can do, too. Other times I like them because they’re so far beyond my paradigm of thought. But if I know what I like, then I’ll know what’s good when I see it again. Which is handy to know if I happen to create it, because that’s a tender, doubt-filled frame of mind.

Novel Influence – What future projects are you excited about?

I’m working on getting a feature film up and running right now. It’s very small, but still manages to be a big story. So I’m meeting with people, trying to find the right producing partner to help get it made. I think it will be a beautiful film when it’s finished, but still very funny and heartfelt. That’s a lot to pack in there, but I think it will happen.


For more information about Jason Headley be sure to visit his website or catch him on twitter.

Dan Ball
Dan Ball
Brand Narrative Designer at Novel Influence. Dan decided to set up Novel Influence to help brands navigate the multi-platform and provide a new age approach to effectively connect brands with an audience. The approach was telling and sharing brand stories. This approach use a framework that assists brand creating ecosystems, authentic social good and authentic stories around the brand. Dan Ball on Google
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