Storytelling in Advertising

Great ads tell great stories, most advertising people agree on this. Even in a digital world, a great idea still takes the audience on an interesting journey.

So, how do we write a great advertising storyline? There are a few overarching idea arcs that good ads have in common.

An overview of Advertising Storyline Structures

  1. Based on Human Insight: Where an idea captures a culturally relevant insight or trend (a category insight or a universal human insight) and links it to the brand in a relevant way. The tone of voice will vary across categories and brands (humour, camaraderie, joy, nostalgia or other emotions) but at their core, they connect with an underlying human truth.
  2. Creating a fictional world: This approach builds an intriguing fantasy world that helps demonstrate a brands proposition.
  3. Using Projection: Based on the human ego, this technique allows the audience to transfer or extend their hopes and desires onto the product or service being sold. This arc can also work in reverse, using fear or threat to warn the viewer of the potential dangers of making an incorrect decision. Either way, it’s about understanding the hopes and fears of the audience and then tying this up with the product in a relevant way.
  4. Product demonstration is when there is a stand out or new product feature that is best showcased with a stunning demonstration.

Here are some examples to make things clearer.

Human Insight Approach

IKEA are experts in simple, lighthearted ads that effortlessly communicate its proposition in witty and insightfully creative ways. The ad below is an example of instinctive / insightful communication built on a modern cultural truth about the way we live in a digital world.

IKEA BookBook

Creating a Fictional World

On the other hand, this campaign for Georgetown Optician is an imaginative story that tells the fictional story of a family obsessed with eyewear. It effectively communicates the point that Georgetown opticians are experts in glasses.

Georgetown Opticians

Using Projection

This campaign for NIKE, taps into peoples hopes and aspirations by empowering the audience to dream about the person they could become if they associate with NIKE.


Product Demonstration

In this ad for Apple Watch, the product does all the talking

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 23.33.20.png

The greatest communications are the most orginal. For your next broef, try using one of these story arcs or even breaking the mould and trying something totally new.

Stop Thinking, Start Feeling…

Top tips for writing great briefs – A summary of this awesome post by Rob Campbell Planning legend @Robertc1970

1) Don’t over think things.
2) Release yourself from the tyranny of conscious thought
3) Express everything in a simple yet interesting way
4) Something that allows people to ‘feel’ not ‘be told’
5) Turn functional into exciting
6) Ignore details and distractions and focus on clarity
7) Briefs that are exciting, infectious and ‘bursting with possible’
8) A proposition that opens doors rather than creates small boxes