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Exxon’s “Fireworks”—Analysis of a great Motion piece

So, yes, I know that I haven’t posted in this blog for over two months.  As soon as april hit, things got intense, and really didn’t slow down till the end of may.  Worked on a lot of fun projects with a lot of fun clients.  Some great pieces, as well, which you can expect to see in future blog posts.  Now that things have slowed down a bit, I wanted to write a little about a commercial I’ve seen around recently that I think does a really nice job of communicating its message.  The piece in question is the new Exxon spot “Fireworks”.  It’s part of a series Exxon put out recently, all of which are strong motion pieces, but this one I feel shines beyond the others.  I can’t figure out a way to embed it, but you can watch it on their site.

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Click to watch

While I’m a bit dubious about the factual claims and methods mentioned, from a motion perspective I find this to be a highly effective commercial.  It’s a short commercial, with the action only taking up about 20 seconds, but it still manages to fit in a lot of information in the lead up to the call for action.  It achieves this by relying heavily on narration and motion to convey information.  No text is shown on the screen until the tagline at the end, so there is no need to lengthy pauses to allow for comprehensive reading.  And even though it’s about something as specific as a rise in test scores, the art is kept very loose and imprecise, with no numbers or units evident.

The place where this piece really shines, though, is in the continuity of motion.  With what starts as a single triangle folds out into a star, which marks a city on a map (looks like one in East Tennessee!).  The stars are positioned to become the stars on an american flag, which swooshes forward and up to turn into rockets for the final fireworks shot.

Continuity of Motion

This continuity of motion provides a lot of visual interest, which is crucially important even in something as short as a :30 spot, so as not to become stagnant and lose viewer interest.  But just as importantly, it provides a powerful metaphor.  Using continuity of motion to drive home a metaphor is a great use of motion graphics, and one that is sometimes overlooked by designers and art directors with a more static image based background.  For example, anyone with even cursory knowledge of the american flag knows that each star represents a state, but that point is driven home by the fact that we see the stars representing the states become the stars on the flag.  It’s in this sort of motion metaphor where motion graphics elevates itself from just being transitions between still designs to the motion itself being part of the message.  The transformation from stars on a map to american flag says “These cities? They could be all of america”, which matches up excellently with the narration and would be difficult to represent so succinctly in a non-motion piece.  Subtext is added as well.  In the screenshot above, even though the arrows are curving to go upwards to match “raise our scores”, they surge forward first in an unmistakable “moving forward” motion.  While this is an important message to the piece, it’s never explicitly said, and simply relies subtext to get across.

There are things I’m not crazy about in the commercial (like the background gradient or the particle shape of the fireworks at the end), but I think that overall it’s an extremely well done motion spot.  It provides a great example of what can be accomplished in only a few short seconds by doing an excellent job of transitioning from one image to not only help visualize and humanize the raw data, but also to drive home the message being conveyed.

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Motion Blurb

Elliott Cennamo is a Motion Graphics designer living in and working out of Columbus, Ohio. Elliott has had the pleasure of working with some of the world's top brands and, in addition to being Emmy Nominated, Elliott's award-winning work has entertained in major sports arenas, been broadcast nationwide, and been used to spur changes in public policy.