“Stories, we all spend our life telling them… About this, about that. About people. But some are so good we wish they’d never end. They are so gripping, we would go without sleep to see a little bit more. Some stories bring us laughter, sometimes bring us tears. But isn’t that what a great story does? Makes you feel? Stories that are so powerful, they really are with us forever…” – Dustin Hoffman, Sky Atlantic.
Advertising can be seen as a dirty word, and when you watch some of the TV ads that make their way onto the screen you can understand why. But it is definitely the best way to reach the widest audience and when done well, you can incorporate great brand storytelling.
More and more businesses are finding ways to tell a narrative tale through their advertising. Even the incredibly annoying Go Compare adverts have become an ongoing saga, with the excruciating Tenor now a tragi-comic character who is trying to find new ways to communicate his message after being blown up, fired into a Black Hole and god-knows what else. It might do your head in every time you see it, but you have to admit that it’s pretty clever.
Another example of narrative storytelling are the BT Broadband flatmates adverts. It helps that the three actors in the ads are all well-cast and talented actors in their own right. The acting and the writing is actually better than the majority of dramas of soaps that you see on the likes of BBC Three, ITV2 and E4. BT’s budget obviously helps in this regard, but it’s simple storytelling that everybody could do. Good scripts, talented actors and a solid film-making team don’t have to cost the world.
The BT Broadband advertising story goes back over three years, with Love Actually’s Kris Marshall starring as a young man dating an older woman who has two kids from a previous marriage. It followed his story from awkward exchanges with the kids all the way up to their marriage, and the story now follows the young son as he ventures off to university. It could quite easily have been a comedy-drama on BBC One, but it’s advertising. Really great marketing.
Here ‘s an examples of the BT Broadband story. See how brilliantly their stories are told, and how simple the storytelling is. You don’t need to smash your customers over the head with flashy visuals and manic editing, you can draw them in with simple, concise storytelling:
BT Broadband Story
It might not be within every businesses budget and marketing plan to have an ongoing advertising campaign, but this shouldn’t hold you back. You can still tell an incredible story with a one-off advertisement. Again, it doesn’t have to break the budget and be a 90 second version of James Cameron’s Avatar to grab the audience’s attention, it just needs to tell a great story.
Take a look at these two advertisements from Sky Atlantic and McDonald’s. Don’t be fooled by the size of the corporations behind these adverts: These are both achievable without millions of pounds behind them. Dustin Hoffman may have cost Sky a few quid, but it’s not the Oscar winning actor that grabs the attention. It’s the words he uses, the music in the background and the message it delivers: Great storytelling is here.
The McDonald’s ad tells the audience that everybody has McDonald’s in common, and it does it with a simple tale that a lot of us can relate to. Take away the McDonald’s banner at the end and you could quite easily be fooled into thinking this was a short film by Shane Meadows. The subtlety of the piece gets the message across without the use of a sledgehammer and it stays with you longer as a result. That’s what a great story does, and what great advertising can do when there is a great story being told within it.