Storytelling in Video Advertising: Main Principles and 5 Inspiring Examples

Video content has become a highly profitable tool in online marketing, rightfully taking its place as the top priority in advertisers’ marketing strategies.

Back when television was the only video marketing channel, splaying the company’s logo over a celebrity feature worked extremely well and was everything a brand could dream about.

However, those times are nothing but history. Now that content attacks consumers from all angles, they have become much more selective about what they pay attention to. As users become more demanding, marketers have to find new ways to engage them. Viewers expect to be simultaneously informed and amused, preferably in a subtle and ingenious way. This is where storytelling comes in to kill two birds with one stone.

The notion itself has become a major talking point recently, manifesting the shift in tone in video marketing. This tonal shift represents a way to engage audiences with ideas related to the product, as opposed to bombarding them with branded imagery for recognition.

We’re living in the age of informational abundance with tons of video content and millions of creators putting their visions forward. Professional video creators know how to put together a thought-provoking story that captivates a user’s attention from the first few seconds..

Indeed, when it comes to successful storytelling, skills and creativity play a great role. When done right, one short clip can go viral and motivate viewers across the globe to think and then buy. If you don’t use storytelling, you are facing the risk of making your brand message dissolve in the ocean of mediocre advertising.

In order to properly resonate with the audience, your story should include these 3 elements:

#1 Empathy

How well you know your target audience defines how well you can empathize with them. Creating an emotional connection with the viewers by commenting on relatable topics is a surefire way to deeply engage them. Create a character personifying your audience that would enjoy doing the same things, display the same characteristics, and it will be much easier to relay the message. The more information you discover the easier it will be to find common language.

#2 Relevance

Topical stories pertaining to current events tend to be especially impactful, playing off topics that are alive in people’s minds and addressing contemporary issues. This makes ads weave seamlessly into the already existing narrative and promote products sublty and effectively.

#3 Reality

In the world of digital industries and virtual reality, we often ignore the value of something real like customers testimonials. They are often taken as gospel, so don’t underestimate the power of stories based on genuine product reviews or experiences from your customers. When done properly, these videos become infinitely more authentic than those fronted by CEOs and celebrities.

Authentic and relevant video content is what adds value to your claims, infuses your principles and identity into your customers’ brain, persuading them to join and be a part of your story.

The golden 5-second rule applies to storytelling as well: make a statement, ask a question, highlight a problem to create tension and get all eyes on your video. It’s crucial that your viewers feel as a part of your story, not just onlookers, so make sure it relates to current events, customer’s persona and their experience with your brand.

So, bearing all that in mind, let’s move on to what we consider excellent examples of storytelling in advertising.

#1 Nike — Want It All

Nike’s “Want It All” is a plain but relatable story about a small kid dreaming of making it big on the NBA court. It is told in an extremely dynamic and straightforward way that seizes your attention and drags you into the story.

The visual is as fascinating and well-shot as a Hollywood movie, and the soundtrack — “Shut ‘Em Down” by Public Enemy perfectly adds to the dynamic plot, establishing the pace of the 2 minute clip.

According to Nike, Want It All is about hustle, confidence and style at every level of the game, and naturally the target audience wants to be associated with this message from the brand.

Like all stories from Nike, this one makes its viewers believe in themselves, inspires them, and associates the brand with those feelings which make the apparel equally appealing.

#2 Santander Bank — Respect Adds Up

“The sweetest commercial ever” is the first thing that kicks into your brain when this commercial’s main character appears. But there’s more to the story of a lost piglet wandering around the big city: the 60-second ad beautifully represents the main mission and principles of the bank — protecting and growing its customers’ assets with respect and care. Santander underscores that respect is crucial in every customer interaction, service, and product, so the campaign illustrates just that.

Furthermore, it calls to the feelings that have a broad appeal — sympathy, compassion, and kindness — a key to the heart of anyone who happened to watch this charming story.

#3 Gillette — Handle With Care

“Handle With Care” is a deeply touching ad, that to our opinion is a perfect reflection of dedication, respect and strong family bonds. The story tells us about an old man who was once a capable sailor who became disabled after a stroke, and his son taking care of him. This video shows how challenging and strenuous their daily routine is, highlighting the love and respect the man has for his father. The brand’s message — handle with care — is the essence of the story that aims to promote the product that was primarily designed for providing assistance.

The work was awarded with six Lions in Cannes: four in the Health and Wellness category, one in Promo and Activation and one in Non-Fiction Entertainment.

#4 Guinness — Wheelchair Basketball

The Wheelchair Basketball commercial is one of our favorites. It’s the only one in our chart that has an element that takes every good story to great: a surprise, a twist that makes everyone gasp and remember the ad for a long time. Another feature that makes this story a great example of storytelling is the creative way it shows friendship and values: 5 of 6 men sit into wheelchairs to play with their disabled friend, supporting the weak one and thus making him stronger within a team.

#5 Under Armour — Rule Yourself

The sacrifice of achievement is the message of an ad featured by an Olympic champion, Michael Phelps. The video shows the hurdles that the sportsman goes through when preparing to his lifetime challenge, and what the brand can do to ease the burden. And to put it simply, storytelling here is great since it is true to life. We have been taught that it takes tremendous effort to achieve success and recognition. So this short story truthfully depicts all the stages of this long and painful path.

In the golden age of visual storytelling, it has proved to be an effective tool for brands striving to spread their message and embody their customers in recognizable characters. Companies of all sizes are already benefiting from well-told stories that let them associate their brand with the right emotions and connect with audiences on a deeper level. Find your own narrative and watch the business flourish.

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