Scott McCloud, author of “Making Comics” and “Understanding Comics” says, “When part of a sequence, even a sequence of only two, the art of the image is turned into something more.” In the world of advertising, this ‘something more’ is a story. In storytelling, the most successful sequencing fosters cognitive ease which increases the ad will be seen in a meaningful way.

One type of ad in which sequencing is vitally important is the montage ad. They typically feature a series of unrelated images, people, scenes, locations, etc., each on screen for less than 2-3 seconds. The individual images have likely been carefully selected by the creative team to communicate an intended message or feeling. However, as imperative as it is to select the right image, it’s equally important, if not more so, to craft the right sequencing of images. Why? As we saw with the recent Dove Digital Campaign, the wrong sequence can have massive and unintended consequences.

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The individual images of the black and white women work equally well toward Dove’s “Real Beauty” strategy. However, the order in which the images appeared  – the black woman removing her shirt to reveal the white woman – caused viewers to take notice and start firing back. How different would this conversation have been if the order had been reversed? Would we even have it?

Whether you are working on a montage ad or a 30 second cohesive story, remember to take care to ensure you are not focusing too much on the individual images but thinking about the sequence as a whole in order to ‘foster cognitive ease” and ensure your ad is seen in the ‘meaningful way” you intended.

Sonya Duran is a Research Director at Ameritest.