How To Tell A Story Through Advertising

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How To Tell A Story Through Advertising

By Samantha Brooks on 12 October, 2015

Every business wants to do their advertising better, right? Better ads mean more sales, lower costs, better engagement, and growth for your business. But there is an art to advertising these days which sets apart the best ads from the mediocre ones.

It’s all about the art of storytelling.

The best ads are the ones where you don’t feel like you’re being sold to. These ads are the ones that go viral, get amazing results (even for small-time businesses or products), and generate plenty of media interest.

Ads like these work because they tell a story. Your audience actually wants to watch, listen, and pay close attention. They are captivated by the scene you have set. It doesn’t matter anymore that it’s an ad designed to entice them into buying something. They don’t care, because you are entertaining them, making them feel good, and inspiring them.

So… how do you go about telling a story through your next ad?

Like I said, there is a certain art to it. There is no right or wrong way to come up with your story, and sometimes the best ad ideas will come when you least expect it. But if you ask yourself the right questions and do the legwork, you will (hopefully) set yourself up to generate some great story ideas for your next ad campaign.

Start by asking yourself these questions…



How Do You Want Your Audience To Feel?


“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou

This quote definitely rings true with advertising. Everyday, people are bombarded with hundreds of ads and messages on different platforms – social media, TV, radio, magazines, billboards, and the list goes on. The thing that will make your ad stand out and stay in their mind for longer is how you make them feel. Human-centred advertising that makes you feel something has a massive effect on engagement and relatability (source). Knowing what feelings you want your ad to generate lays the groundwork for the kind of story your ad needs to tell.

Some feelings you might want to generate could be…

  • Freedom
  • Satisfaction
  • Joy
  • Luck
  • Thankfulness
  • Courage
  • Relaxation
  • Encouragement
  • Comfort
  • Calm
  • Love
  • Warmth
  • Sympathy
  • Tenderness
  • Curiosity
  • Eagerness
  • Passion
  • Challenged
  • Bold
  • Confident
  • Hopeful
  • Inspiration
  • Secure
  • Admiration

Note that these are all very positive feelings. It is possible that you may want to call up negative feelings as well to support your story, but it’s usually a good idea to keep things positive overall. Possible negative emotions could be: anxiousness, helplessness, dissatisfaction, fatigue, loneliness, panic, fear, doubt, and restlessness.

What Action Do You Want Your Audience To Take?

Every ad should be created with some kind of end result or action in mind. This action is what you will use to measure the overall success of your ad. The kind of story you tell should help encourage your audience to take this action, whether directly, or in a more subtle way. For example, you could literally write out in text or in a voice-over, the exact action, such as “call this number”, “visit this website”, etc. Or you could hint at the characters in your story taking this action themselves. Some possible actions you could imply in your ad might be:

  • Use your product
  • Visit a retailer
  • Visit your website
  • Buy your product
  • Follow you on social media
  • Tell a friend about your service
  • Call for a quote
  • Call to ask questions
  • Request a free sample


What’s Your Story?


What kind of story will inspire your audience to take action, connect with your brand and values, and feel the way you want them to?

The sky’s the limit when it comes to deciding on your story. Don’t let this overwhelm you, though. If you feel stuck, often the best way forward is to brainstorm your ideas very laterally. Write down anything that comes to mind. Ask your colleagues, audience, and even your family members for ideas.

Research what your competitors are doing. Take a look at the kinds of videos and images that are going viral these days. Make sure you really know your audience. What makes your audience laugh, cry, think, and feel things? If it’s cute, fluffy kittens, then you should come up with a story around that. If it’s the struggles of daily family life, then that’s your angle.

At the end of the day, you should have at least one story that fits your brand, your action, and the feeling you want to generate. Test this on a small sample of your audience to guage their reaction, then go from there.

Now, it’s time to get inspired.

Sometimes the best way to learn how to do something right is to see what others have done. The following are some examples of very successful storytelling through ads. Think about how you can adapt a similar advertising style or story to your audience and product or service.

What does this make you feel? For me, it’s excitement and anticipation, leading me to want to unbox my own Samsung Galaxy S6, of course.

Nawww. So many feels. This feel good story about a dog and an owner that both struggled a little in life makes you associate those happy feelings with Kleenex. And maybe if you cried a little while watching this, you might have felt the need to go buy some tissues too.

Basically, Robert Downey Jr in Ironman character delivers an actual bionic arm to a young boy. It’s pretty cool and makes you feel good. In turn, it spreads awareness of Microsoft’s The Collective Project, and you associate those same feel-good sensations with their products and technology.

  • Budweiser USA Best Buds

It seems that you can’t go wrong with a story of a man and his dog. This super adorable ad shows a dog getting lost and journeying across the country to come back home to its owner. The associated action is that best friends enjoy Budweiser together, of course!

  • Tough Mudder Facebook Ad



It’s not just videos that tell stories. This image-based Facebook link ad quite clearly tells the story of friends getting together, having a great time, accomplishing something, and feeling good about themselves. With the clear call-to-action of “Run Tough Mudder 2015” and the “Learn More” button, it’s no wonder this ad works well (just check out the likes, shares, and comments).

To check out some more awesome examples of ads like these, take a look at these articles:

At the end of the day, as long as you have a story that ties back to your brand logically, does something to your audience’s emotions, and inspires them to take action, your ad has the ingredients it needs to get results… and maybe even go viral.


Over to You Now…


Have you used storytelling in your advertising? If so, how did your results compare with typical advertising that only focused on promoting your brand or product?

If you’d like help with creating ads for your business that work, or have any questions about this article, please get in touch with our team at Fuse Agency. We’d love to chat. Contact us here.

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