To Engage Emotion, Tell a Story

AdAge logoWhen was the last time you saw an advertisement that moved you enough you wanted to share it with a friend? (And by “moved” I don’t mean that it was so ridiculously bad that you showed it to your buddy so you could both guffaw over it.)

If we’re talking online ads, the answer is probably “never.” Yet advertising wasn’t always so underwhelming. Just think of the metal Coke posters from the 50s that you still see displayed — voluntarily — in restaurants or even homes. They’re collector’s items, and there’s enough demand for them that reproductions are widely available.

Even today, marketing and advertising in other media can be engaging. For many of us, it’s actually fun to watch and comment on the commercials shown during the Super Bowl (like the 2014 Budweiser commercial shown above–which, to be clear, I had nothing to do with!) Leafing through an issue of Vogue is as much about the beautiful and creative ads as it is about the editorial content.

Unfortunately, most of the time, online marketing is synonymous with obnoxious, in-your-face advertisements that are irrelevant at best and slow your computer or smartphone down and drain its battery at their worst.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Online and mobile advertising can be just as compelling, engaging, and entertaining as offline and TV ads.

The key to making this happen is for marketers to learn how to produce emotional responses in the audiences they want to reach. Emotion, unfortunately, cannot be produced by technology alone.

The key to producing an emotion is to tell a story.

And that’s what online marketers need to relearn: The power of storytelling.

Pixar’s Matthew Luhn knows a thing or two about storytelling: He helped create the scripts for Finding Nemo, Toy Story II, Cars, and many other movies. He lays out a few of Pixar’s storytelling principles in a recent article for AdAge titled “How to Put More Emotion in Storytelling.

The fact is, people have evolved to be storytellers and to respond deeply and emotionally to storytelling. If brands want to be as successful online as they were in traditional media a few decades ago, they need to relearn the basics of storytelling.

His principles:

  1. You need a hook
  2. You need to show a change in order to engender a change in your audience
  3. You want to establish a connection with shared or universal human concerns
  4. You’ll need good story structure
  5. And finally, be authentic. You can’t fake your way to a real emotional connection.

Luhn spoke at Cannes Lions last week alongside Quantcast CEO Konrad Feldman.

Note: Quantcast is a Tweney Media client, and we’re helping this advertising platform and metrics company with — you guessed it — storytelling. Contact us if you’d like to hear how we can help your company tell its story better.


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