Five Billion Data Points Synthesized to One Implication: Storytelling is Better than Fact Delivery, Dah!!

Advertising must interpret a person’s media consumption and engage/convince them to change or reinforce the behavior – all in a few seconds. Storytelling principles have been used for years to help advertisers succeed and win in this competitive environment. There have been 10,000’s studies on advertising effectiveness and we hope this article will validate those findings and provide heuristics for the rest of us.

We started by exposing 1,410 consumers to 400+ ads and collected over five billion data points using a medical-grade EEG (electroencephalogram) system consisting of 32 sensors tracking neurological activity. These sensors collect data 500 times a second to capture activity across key regions of the brain as consumers were exposed to the advertisements.

Our findings were:

Validation (further evidence to what we already know)

• TVCs that used a storytelling approach had a 20% greater brand cut-through as compared to TVCs without a storytelling narrative.

• Storytelling-based TVCs had a significantly higher emotional connection than non-storytelling TVCs, resulting in higher positive disposition and motivation towards the brand and the message.

• Storytelling TVCs were five times more likely to be believed than non-storytelling TVCs.

Interesting new findings (but obvious)

• The research proved that storytelling TVCs with one or two scenes drove stronger involvement. Multiple scenes force the brain to constantly re-orient, leading to a heavy cognitive load and subsequent disengagement.

• Similarly, TVCs with two to three main characters perform best. A single-character TVC is limited in its ability to show conflict. TVCs with more than four main characters require a great deal of cognitive processing in a short period of time, leading to a heavy cognitive load and subsequent disengagement.

The biggest implication (according to us) is how this might help us all present better, whether that means through a TVC, a live presentation to clients, or a narrative in a case study.

For example, it might seem obvious but try and only have 1-2 presenters instead of more than two when presenting to a client. Think about your story whether a presentation or a case study or an ad in terms of as few scenes as possible – a single narrative rather than multiple chapters – in a time-starved situation.

The most important thing, in our opinion, is building an emotional connection with your audience. If an audience is emotionally connected, the desired action will follow. This can be a challenge in today’s online world as it’s difficult to read the audience’s body language and let’s be honest, we all multi-task during online presentations.

One of the masters of building an emotional connection was the film director Alfred Hitchcock. The secret of his success was the green script. Hitchcock created two scripts – a regular one that covered the actors’ lines, staging, sound effect instructions, etc., and a second one – called a green script that covered the emotion he wanted the audience to feel in each scene, with each action.

Now that is a big thought. Maybe we should all create a green script for every presentation – how does the audience feel? How will each element of our story get a reaction? After all, if you do not feel, the chances of action are lower.