Storytelling works, who knew.

by Kate Brodock on 29 October 2007

Posted in: Uncategorized

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The Advertising Research Foundation (or, more appropriately, ARF) has just come out with a study in conjunction with the American Association of Advertising Agencies that telling an effective story in the midst of your ad campaign is what really grabs the attention of the consumers.

My question, and maybe this is out of bounds, is who in world paid for this study? Or why wasn’t this study conducted at least 100 years ago (as a preemptive halt to anyone who may reply “Then why didn’t you?” I honestly assumed something like this MUST have been done at this point, and of course never bothered to check for reasons in this email). Ok, I get you might need numbers behind some things, but this is the most timeless, and most obvious, conclusion you could every make. Anthropologically, what’s lasted the longest? Stories, myths, anecdotes. What do they tell you do when you go into an interview that will really show them who you are and why they want you? Tell a story. What makes good movies? A story. What makes a bad movie? No story.

ARF and AAAA “hypothesize” further that the emotions of the consumer get truly entwined with the brand when a story is used, and we all know when emotions get entwined, sales occur. Oh, but don’t forget that your story needs to portray you brand in a positive light. So if you were thinking of telling a story about how the suspension in your car is so good that you couldn’t even tell that you had run over your daughter’s new cat, ARF says that might not be the way to go!

I’m sure there were some very valuable things that came out of this study, but there just may be insights that don’t need to be entirely back-up by numbers. I’ll leave you to read the whole thing. Until then, I’ll keep doing what I was doing before, since nothing has changed.

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  • Aurelio

    Hi, Kate. I see you are a student. Found you post while looking for articles on the $A's storytelling story. Though you might appreciate a draft of a piece i am writing for my portfolio website (site to be published soon). i am a veteran creative director and know that the opinion below casts me as a heretic in many circles. Would be happy to hear your reaction.

    Best,

    Aurelio Saiz

    Apple breaks all the storytelling conventions and uses (gasp) testimonials, demonstrations and comparative advertising.

    Three ad forms that are often overlooked by creative people are the demonstration, the testimonial, and comparison, invariably in favor of storytelling. If you read the 4A’s recent research findings on storytelling, they do their best to cast storytelling as the penultimate form of advertising. Maybe it is, but it’s not the only form that can build brand connections and sell, as so much of the work for Apple proves. The entire campaign for the iPhone is a combination of stylish demo spots with glossy close ups of the device in action coupled with disarming testimonials from real people who plainly tell us and show us how the product helps their lives. There are stories in the testimonials, but they are incidental and they are niether metaphorical nor dramatizations. Much of the work for Apple refutes the positions of the 4A research which wrongheadedly casts storytelling against product advertising as though an advertiser has to choose door number or door number two. The fact is there are more than two doors and more than one form of advertising. Apple knows it. And they know how to use music, design, style to tell us about their products. It’s why they can do a deliciously vaudevillian Mac versus PC campaign which keys on product comparisons (yet another form) and why throughout the iPod era they have done a stunning job of making product advertising that is elegant, stylish and makes us covet their devices. When one of the world’s great and centered brands can do that, storytellers should take note. –afs

  • http://inprogress Aurelio

    Hi, Kate. I see you are a student. Found you post while looking for articles on the $A’s storytelling story. Though you might appreciate a draft of a piece i am writing for my portfolio website (site to be published soon). i am a veteran creative director and know that the opinion below casts me as a heretic in many circles. Would be happy to hear your reaction.

    Best,

    Aurelio Saiz

    Apple breaks all the storytelling conventions and uses (gasp) testimonials, demonstrations and comparative advertising.

    Three ad forms that are often overlooked by creative people are the demonstration, the testimonial, and comparison, invariably in favor of storytelling. If you read the 4A’s recent research findings on storytelling, they do their best to cast storytelling as the penultimate form of advertising. Maybe it is, but it’s not the only form that can build brand connections and sell, as so much of the work for Apple proves. The entire campaign for the iPhone is a combination of stylish demo spots with glossy close ups of the device in action coupled with disarming testimonials from real people who plainly tell us and show us how the product helps their lives. There are stories in the testimonials, but they are incidental and they are niether metaphorical nor dramatizations. Much of the work for Apple refutes the positions of the 4A research which wrongheadedly casts storytelling against product advertising as though an advertiser has to choose door number or door number two. The fact is there are more than two doors and more than one form of advertising. Apple knows it. And they know how to use music, design, style to tell us about their products. It’s why they can do a deliciously vaudevillian Mac versus PC campaign which keys on product comparisons (yet another form) and why throughout the iPod era they have done a stunning job of making product advertising that is elegant, stylish and makes us covet their devices. When one of the world’s great and centered brands can do that, storytellers should take note. –afs

  • Randall Ringer

    Dear Kate,

    There are two real revolutions in the ARF study.

    The first is the recognition that almost none of the tools and processes used to develop advertising are based on the ideas of story telling.

    Everything from positioning statements to media modeling to tracking studies are based on 30 year-old theories of positioning.

    The second is the idea that brands themselves are stories. Go beyond a single commercial execution and ask yourself, does the brand have a story?

    Thousands of companies have positioning statements. How many of them have brand story statements?

    As for the example of Apple, I would posit that Apple is at the forefront of story telling and metaphor. The name, the logo — those aren't metaphors?

    Regards,

    Randall Ringer
    http://www.versegroup.com

  • Randall Ringer

    Dear Kate,

    There are two real revolutions in the ARF study.

    The first is the recognition that almost none of the tools and processes used to develop advertising are based on the ideas of story telling.

    Everything from positioning statements to media modeling to tracking studies are based on 30 year-old theories of positioning.

    The second is the idea that brands themselves are stories. Go beyond a single commercial execution and ask yourself, does the brand have a story?

    Thousands of companies have positioning statements. How many of them have brand story statements?

    As for the example of Apple, I would posit that Apple is at the forefront of story telling and metaphor. The name, the logo — those aren’t metaphors?

    Regards,

    Randall Ringer
    http://www.versegroup.com

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