Volkswagen Print Ad

Remember the last time you overheard a juicy break room conversation prefaced by the phrase “One time at band camp…” If it had happened, you’d definitely never forget it.

That’s because our existence is made more interesting by stories. Stories transpose the mundane into adventures; they’re the means by which we connect with other human beings on an emotional level. These emotions, in turn, help us not only to connect, but also to retain all types of information. “The human brain doesn’t understand bullet points,” a wise person once told me. And I think that’s true. Do you remember college econ? Yeah, I don’t either.

The real power in stories is in the ability to frame reality in a light that is controlled completely by the storyteller. In one word: manipulation. A good story, told correctly, means that the crotchety next-door neighbor can be transformed into a possible retired pirate who is merely experiencing a severe case of cabin fever. It might even allow Charlie Sheen (forgive me for even perpetuating his mind-boggling fame in this forum) to change his status from sad-sack drug addict to celebrity legend. And the art director who doesn’t know how to behave in meetings (obviously no one at Jibe Media fits this mold)… he’s actually just engrossed in the “creative process.”

Boiled down, advertising is storytelling. Whether informing, teaching, provoking or demonstrating to a group of people – the objective is to mold or change opinions so that action happens. In advertising, however, you literally only have seconds to get your story right: on average :05 seconds for a print ad, :30 for TV, and :60 for radio. You choose the arsenal. Perhaps it’s a specific mood or tone, a thought provoking slogan, or a captivating image (a picture’s worth a thousand words, right?). But whatever you choose, it has to happen quickly, and, in order to be effective, it has to tell a story.

I can still remember the Big Red jingle from my childhood, often reference the original (and extremely unconventional for it’s time) VW Beetle minimalistic ad campaign, and drink Gatorade after hard workouts, because their ad campaigns taught me that sweat and Gatorade go hand in hand.

What advertising campaigns do you remember and what story did they tell?

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