To submit requests for assistance, or provide feedback regarding accessibility, please contact

Arts & Entertainment

How to Tell a Story in 30 Seconds

Jeff Goodby & Rich Silverstein

Lesson time 7:19 min

Learn two techniques for plotting out an ad before it’s shot.

Jeff Goodby & Rich Silverstein
Teach Advertising and Creativity
Advertising icons Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein teach you how to break rules, change minds, and create the best work of your life.
Get Started


[MUSIC PLAYING] - You know, it's funny that great filmmakers aren't the best commercial directors because they can tell a story in 2 and 1/2 hours. We have to tell it in 30 seconds or one minute. And it's a different kind of mindset. So you have to have an instant gratification feeling to it. You've got to get to it right away. And that's not easy. But it's really traditional, classic idea. You have a beginning. You have a middle, and you have an end. It just happens to be in 30 seconds. Jeff and I always say, start with the ending. OK? If you don't know where you're going, forget it. Because you're-- and a lot of people in our company have done this, which is, they're looking for someone else to find the ending. They'll even sell the idea to the client. And they're, ah, we got a couple ways of going at the end. And they get a director. And at the end, they try different things. No, you have to know where you're going. It's got to land in humor or poignancy. But it's got to land. And if it doesn't land, it's eh. And so many pieces of film end like that. They can't. You have to end on a high. People come to my office, and they'll present an idea. But they'll tell me the name of the idea. They'll give me a title. And I'll say, I don't want to hear the title. Is the title in the commercial? No. Well, don't-- come on. You're cheating. No, you can't tell me what the story's about. You have to read the story to me, and I will feel what it's about. - One way of testing that stuff is through casting. I mean, I always tell people, you know, if it's not funny in the casting tape, it's not going to get funny when you get all these people around you and have lots of money being spent. She's not suddenly going to be hilarious. I'm just saying. You know, she's got to be funny when you're casting her. And so you really have to watch out for things like that. Those are details that make things great. [MUSIC PLAYING] When I was working for Riney, he was very fastidious about timing in commercials and why it was important. And he was really into planning things out so that they had a beginning, a middle, and an end. And there was always an arc. And they're always funny when they're supposed to be funny. And he reacted to a script that I wrote one day. I brought the script in for a bank. And it was a funny script. And he said, it's too long. And I said, I timed it. I think I might've lied. He pulled out a stopwatch, and he said, I'm going to take this section out because it's not funny, and it will make it a 60-second commercial like it's supposed to be. I'm not going to read that section. So he clicked the stopwatch, put it upside down on his desk, started reading the script. When the script was over, he clicked the stopwatch and held it up. It was exactly on 60. OK? I said, oh, my god. So he had a sixth sense for this kind of stuff. Part of the reason that he had that was he made these diagrams. I have one of his, and I have one of...

Create the big ideas of tomorrow

As the minds behind the “got milk?” campaign, the Budweiser lizards, and countless other ads that have permeated pop culture, Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein never stop reimagining the possibilities of advertising. Now they’re sharing how they make the beautiful and edgy work that’s seen by millions. Learn how to come up with great ideas, tell funny and compelling stories, and dazzle at your next pitch or presentation.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Talented, fun, effortless, humble,... you are both Masters in advertising and teaching

Oh wow! I am so happy I saw this master class. I love the way that they are creative but also very honest and human. You can tell they are good bosses. I have been struggling in my current job because I feel I am not creative enough so this was a breath of fresh air to see. I would love to work for them.

This gave me a boost in confidence now realizing that my intuition is guiding me perfectly.

I learned several important things: 1. how to manage different team members and talk to them 2. how to trigger creativity 3. wear clients shoes


Brian H.

I can think of a few authors who could put a bit more planning into their endings!

Stuart G.

I run and TV add agency and I know how challenging it can be it get everything into a 30 second let alone a15 second commercial. Loved how they develop their storyboards, very basic but effective.

Mike E.

Great insight into story telling. Stories are how we exchange information, pass down values, keep history and so on. Story telling is one of the most valuable assets any creative can have, if you can't tell a good story, it's harder to listen to anything you have to say. Silverstein makes this poignant when he says "Start with the end". I've recently put this into practice with my own work and found it makes writing the story so much faster. A story is just a metaphor for the point you're trying to make, but the real gem here is that you need a place to end in order to start - J.O.

Saurav N.

Look I made one. Just so that I remember this wonderful method and never forget it.

Saurav N.

This should be called a paper cut edit... its like cutting paper and using audio....or one can even use a PPT to make these

Saurav N.

This diagram thing is such a pro tip for the film making so much

A fellow student

I am going to have the copywriters and video production department listen to this particular lesson!!! Thanks for the great info! I am the Art Director for an agency in the Boston area and love that I can watch and learn from this Master Class...


That's such a great suggestion, as an editor, I know I can always make it however long, however, having the discipline to sort the length before makes for much more exploration later, even in the editing phase...