The media and news coming out of the Syrian civil war have varied from the professional  content being produced by the Islamic State showing their barbarity to shocking ads of refugees from human rights group. But the general narrative is of brutality and complicated chaos that Game of Thrones would find hard to match. However one of the goals from every side is to portray themselves as the good guys in order to gain popular support, material supplies and recruits. The Islamic state is currently at the top of the other militant groups in their content and video marketing to gain attention and recruits. However, another rebel group, the Levant Front, has caught up on Facebook news feeds with an execution video that has already received more than half a million views. Check it out below

It has so many hits, not because of its cheap production value, but because it’s effective narrative tactic of subverting the audience’s expectations. Subverting expectations have always been a great way to gain an audience’s attention. For example, 500 days of Summer offers a deconstruction of the Maniac Pixie Dream Girl (starring Zooey Deschanel no less) where the cliche relationship was how Joseph Gordon-Levitt perceived it to what actually happened. Or how Samus Aran is a girl in a videogame industry where nearly 100% of the gendered characters (except Ms Pac-Man) was assumed to be a man. Both examples received critical acclaim and attention.

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However, even subverting expectations such as the twist ending can still become stale (see everything that is M Night Shyamalan). The twist or subversion must contribute to the narrative as a whole. For example, in Bioshock, the twist that your actions were in fact directly controlled by Atlas/Fontaine is considered one of the most effective narrative moments in videogame storytelling. More importantly, it also added to the overall theme of free will that has made Bioshock the critically-acclaimed game that it is.

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In video marketing especially, with the massive output from various brands and companies, being able to stand out from the crowd is essential to engage with potentially new audience members. Subverting many of the tired cliches that audience members expect with ads or video marketing (which are often an outpour of features and pricings) offering content that is not only entertaining to watch, as well as potentially educational not only shows an awareness of your audience expectations but will increase their engagement with your brand. One of the most effective ads in recent memory was the #likeagirl campaign which was about how boys and girls viewed what it means to be like a girl, gained attention for subverting the common and damaging cliche of what doing things like a girl means.

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If one were to think of the various rebel groups as competitors vying for attention and support, then the Levant Front was one who won video marketing. By mirroring the graphic production of ISIS videos but ultimately subverting the common Syrian war narrative of constant retributions, the Levant Front caught the attention of the world and portrayed itself as a better alternative to ISIS.