Bringing a Story to Life in your Advertising Campaign

Posted by John Haslam

Publix, a Southeastern grocery store chain, has used the power of storytelling to create memorable, entertaining commercials-especially during the holiday season.  This particular Publix Holiday commercial was released on television more than five years ago.  Yet, since it was uploaded to YouTube, it has gained nearly 20,000 viewers.  What has made this video so relevant?  How did Publix develop a message that people still want to see more than half a decade after its release?

One of the main reasons that this commercial video has had such a long-lasting impression on viewers is because it effectively harnesses the power of storytelling, relaying an entire story from beginning to end in just over one minute.  Storytelling has been one of the most effective ways to relay information and attract listeners for thousands of years, long before the advent of video marketing.  From generation to generation, individuals have passed along their history and cultural identities through word of mouth and imagery; since everyone can relate to a story, these tales can survive for centuries.  According to this article on Social Media Today, some of the earliest examples of storytelling can be seen in a visual sense through unearthed cave paintings and in the verbal tradition through many of the stories from the Bible.

Though commercials are not necessarily biblical epics, they employ many of the same techniques and theories, creating relatable and easily recognizable emotions within their characters.  Furthermore, the advertising for the company is subtle, leaving viewers to read between the lines.  In the Publix example, the audience sees that the family is brought together for the holidays due in part to Publix’s food selections, which are so good that even the Christmas ornaments want a taste.  Rather than bombarding their audience with unnecessary information, they evoke an emotion and provide a resolution through their products and services.

Always remember that storytelling is not the same as narrating.  You may have noticed that not a single word is uttered through the entire holiday commercial video, and yet the audience is still able to connect with the characters and understand the situation.  The adage “seeing is believing” holds strong to this day.  Show your audience something they have never seen before, and they will view you as an innovator and an expert in your field.
For your next video advertising campaign, avoid garish sales pitches.  Tell your viewers a story, and you will be sure to hold their attention.