It’s no surprise that Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches is the most watched internet commercial of all time, already having garnered close to 55.5 million views on YouTube.
The spot illustrates all the classic principles of effective storytelling.
For one, it has a clear three-act structure, with a beginning, a middle and an end.
In Act 1, a group of women are introduced into the scene. Act 2 covers the process of having their picture drawn by a forensic artist as they describe their own features. As in any well-structured Hollywood film, there is a plot twist between Acts 2 and Act 3. In this case, it’s learning how the other women described them. Act 3 offers the resolution as our protagonists actually see, through the forensic sketches, how their beauty is viewed through the eyes of others in contrast to their own.
This three-act structure provides drama, mystery and forward motion. The women don’t understand what is happening to them at first, and only learn as Real Beauty Sketches unfolds.
That the women learn something is also an essential to successful storytelling.
In all great stories, a central character goes through a trial of sorts, and discovers something about himself and the world. Whether it’s the Great Gatsby, The Magic Flute or Real Beauty Sketches, the protaganists undergo a change, a transformation. As viewers or readers, we go along with them on the journey and find ourselves transformed as well.
Above all, Real Beauty Sketches has a satisfying conclusion, another storytelling essential. In Real Beauty Sketches, it’s when the women come to terms with how beautiful they really are. It is a genuinely happy ending that moves us as much as it moves them.
All in all, Real Beauty Sketches is classic storytelling at its finest. It is emotional, authentic and structured in a way to keep our attention and interest at every moment along the way. No shot or scene is gratuitous. Every element moves the story forward, pointing to the dramatic conclusion.
When you craft a story this well, it’s inevitable that viewers will want to watch it, and learn from it, again and again.