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UK Insights

Three quarters of ads don’t contain any kind of story

Graham Page

Head of Global Research Solutions

Brands 03.11.2016 / 17:00

Teacher reading story book to children

Why? When humans love stories

We know stories are important to the human psyche. In his book, The Storytelling Animal, Jonathan Gottschall, found that we have around 2,000 daydreams per day and spend 50% of our waking time spinning fantasies.  However, when Kantar Millward Brown analysed 381 American adverts we found only 25% of ads tried to tell any kind of story.

This is a shame, because the ads that did tell a story were much more engaging. One of the ways Kantar Millward Brown researches ads is by automatically coding the facial expressions of viewers as they watch ads, to measure the emotional engagement. Our research shows ads with a story elicited an emotional response, compared to those without a story.

Unsurprisingly, ads with stories also generated higher levels of both positive and negative emotions – eliciting both more smiles, and more expressions of disgust. This makes sense of drama is vanilla and boring, unless it includes emotional highs and lows  - so some negative responses are not a bad thing. What counts is the way these emotions and these stories are used.

Graham Slide

It is fairly easy to tell a story, but it is harder to tell one where the brand has a critical role.  Yet this is the key to harnessing stories for brands, and is particularly important as video campaigns are increasingly skippable through digital formats.

There are lots of different roles a brand can play in stories:

  • Enabler - for example, the Lynx deodorant enabling men to appear more attractive
  • The character – such as the anthropomorphic M&M characters
  • The Hero – the Snickers bar turning the a hangry Joan Collins back into the football coach
  • Reward – for example, Strongbow

The key thing to remember is the importance of brand ‘fit’ in making story ads compelling. In Kantar Millward Brown analysis, it was only the ads where the brand was deemed to fit with the narrative that generated higher levers of motivation. Ads where the brand was an irrelevance failed to lead to increased predisposition towards the brand.

Source : Kantar Millward Brown

Editor's Notes

For more information or to interview Graham Page, please contact us.

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