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Storytelling Is Soooo 2010. Today's Best Digital Ads Get to the Point.



Recently, some Cup O Content team members saw the following YouTube ad from Adobe Photoshop, and we all loved it!



The fact that we're a bunch of designers and advertisers probably helped us appreciate it more (but Adobe knew who would see that ad when it was created). This campaign is now getting a lot of attention from all kinds of marketing professionals for a lot of reasons. But we are talking about it here because it's kind of a perfect example of how dramatically the advertising business has changed over the last decade.


The Olden Days of Advertising

Back in the day, ad agencies spent a lot of time talking about the power of storytelling. Brands invested lots of money in celebrity endorsements, entertaining plots, special effects, and all kinds of borrowed interest.

 

Back then, advertisers reasoned, most people didn't want to see your ads anyway, so the only way to get the attention of potential customers was through storytelling. They thought you had to create a short film and drop your product into it. Those marketers believed you had to tell a story and weave a brand message into the story. They didn't want to forget about your product or service, but they also didn't want to spend too much time on it.

 

This award-winning ad from Coca-Cola is an excellent example of how this old-school approach worked.



It's a high-cost ad that leans hard into borrowed interest. While the effects are impressive, this could be an ad for any soda. Or any snack food. Or sneakers. The product is not only secondary but also almost unimportant. The storytelling is front and center, and the product gets a little lost.

 

Why Things Are Changing

Creating an effective digital ad has changed completely. Before the evolution of digital targeting, advertisers had to send ads to a wide range of consumers. Targeting was, by today's standards, primitive. When advertisers had to send ads out to everyone, they couldn’t rely on product benefits to sell. In order to capture attention, brands relied on elaborate storytelling to get consumers to stay around long enough to get the brand message (if there actually was a brand message).


In 2024, digital targeting now offers super precise reach. That means you can reach only the people most likely to buy your product. When you set up and target your campaigns properly, you're able to deliver ads to an already interested audience. This well-qualified audience wants to learn about your product. And that means ads telling loosely related stories, relying on borrowed interest, burying product features and benefits, or otherwise dancing around the selling point are now less effective or, worse, annoying. People now expect short and straightforward, making these old-school ads a waste of your investment.

 

How to Capture Attention in the Digital World

So, if old-school advertising ideas about storytelling and borrowed interest are gone, what is the best way to promote your product in online ads? How can you capture the attention of your audience? Here are some tips that should help.

 

  • Don’t Skimp on Researching and Identifying Your Audience. You can reach very specific sets of consumers online, but only if you do your homework. Different social media platforms offer various audience parameters. For example, if reaching fly fishers is most important, Facebook offers laser-focused identifiers. If you want to send ads to the employees of a certain set of companies, use LinkedIn. If you need to market to people who wish to rent villas, TikTok offers this as a standalone parameter. Each platform is different, and the audience parameters change all the time. The only way to ensure your chosen platform will effectively reach your best audience is research, research, research. When you target ads correctly, you significantly reduce the likelihood of sending your marketing messages to the wrong people.

  • Promote Location. Whether you are talking to Americans, Pennsylvanians, Philadelphians, or Center City residents, include your location in the ad to increase visibility and interest. For example, if you want to promote a pizza place in Center City, Philadelphia, make the area a central part of the ad. Noting the location in your headline or making it a big part of the ad works for almost every advertising category. In this example, "Try Our Center City Pizza" is much more effective than "Try Our Pizza."


  • Lead with Descriptive Benefits. Throw away generic words like "great" and "best" and focus on meaningful adjectives that appeal to our best customers. Using the pizza example again, instead of writing headlines like "Best Pizza in Center City" (after all, "best" means different things to different people), try descriptors such as "Cheesiest Pizza in Center City" or "Thinnest Pizza in Center City." Or maybe you highlight unique pizzas with a headline like "Cheesesteak Pizza in Center City." Creating a specific, descriptive (and accurate) ad is the best way to capture the attention of people who will become loyal customers.

 

  • Stop Stalling. Throw out outdated ideas about creating a story or putting the benefits at the end of the message. Online viewers are wildly impatient and want to know what you're selling immediately. Notice that the Adobe Photoshop ad mentioned above showed the logo first and then immediately started to demonstrate how cool Photoshop could be.

 

  • Show Real Stuff. Ironically, in digital, "real" trumps "fake" every time. That means it's wise to avoid stock photos or stock videos. Even when your photos or videos are a little unpolished, they will attract more attention and drive more sales than photos that look purchased or don't show you, your people, or your product. If you can afford better production values, it's definitely a very good investment, but a beautiful shot of a generic product or place will never perform better than your rough and ready authentic shots.


 

Are You Ready to Get Real?

Digital advertising is a great way to build awareness, drive sales, and generate leads, but it's very different from traditional or legacy media. An experienced digital marketing partner will help you get better results and higher returns.

 

If you’d like to discuss your marketing needs, contact us today. We’d love to talk.

 

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