Compelling storytelling: we don’t want to be interrupted by advertisements but do want content that is relevant, useful, honest, accessible and good quality


This article was fully updated on 15 June 2018.

In February 2018 Google launched an ad-blocker for its Chrome web browser designed to prevent "annoying" and "intrusive" ads being shown to users.

Ad blocking is what you get after 20 years of laziness by advertisers in the digital space.

First advertisers created the banner ad. We let brands know we hated banners by refusing to click through. So advertisers created pop-ups. Like an industry-wide brainstorming session focused on how to make digital advertising more irritating to consumers and less productive to their brands’ bottom lines.

Hugh MacLeod, co-founder and creative director at Gaping Void - a culture consultancy - summed up the sentiment with:

“If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people they’d punch you in the face.”

.Image by Hugh MacLeod of Gaping Void shared under Creative Commons License.

Advertisers have had to find a less intrusive way of ‘smuggling’ their brand messages into the conscience of consumers. High-quality story telling is the obvious answer.

But storytelling has been seen as the natural preserve of the public relations professional - at least this is the view held by the public relations professional. So there’s been a lot of posturing about the ‘ownership’ rather than the ‘stewardship’ of PR and marketing disciplines.

This navel-gazing turf war is ultimately futile. Customers don’t care about the functions of PR and marketing. PR, advertising and marketing can learn skills from each other.

Compelling storytelling

Consumers don’t want to be interrupted by ads but they do want to turn to compelling storytelling - content that is:

  1. Relevant to them and their immediate needs
  2. Useful, adding value to them by answering their subject questions, entertaining them or providing more information about a subject they're interested in
  3. Honest - if it's native advertising it's got to be easily identifiable as such. If it's sponsored content via influencer marketing, disclose the commercial arrangement. It's the right thing to do ethically, legally and commercially.
  4. Good quality - created by talented storytellers. Well thought-out,  well argued and well executed.
  5. Accessible - can help start a conversation with like-minded people 

Brands need to create compelling content. Content that doesn’t set out to tell the brand’s story in a more compelling way but compelling content that helps their customers and prospective customers to solve problems.

compelling content: message to advertisers: give us compelling storytelling

Consumers don’t like to be sold at. Brands need to discard banner ads and pop-ups and consider using:

  1. Native advertising on media sites;
  2. Influencer marketing on select influencer's social media channel and;
  3. Content marketing on their brand’s own publishing platforms.

Consumers trust the opinions of people like us, so brands should develop meaningful relationships with influencers. Not for a short-term uptick in brand awareness but in long-term relations which move beyond content promotion toward content co-creation and further into co-created products.

Brands need to use social media to distribute this content. Paid media to amplify it. And earned media to provide it with third-party influencer authority.

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Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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