The question all advertisers have to ask

Incite an emotional response

Every day, high levels of Sturm und Drang surround the creation of work intended to do one thing: elicit a reaction. It's one of those advertising fundamentals. But first, before pen meets paper, you’ve got to ask the most important question: What kind of reaction are we after?

Broadly, there are two ways to go. One, the traditional brand play, is to evoke an emotional response, to generate a feeling or a belief; to make someone think something. The other is more data-rich and measurable: to incite an action, to get someone to actually do something - to buy your thing, or sign up for your thing, or download your thing.

Despite the axiom "actions speak louder than words," the point here isn't to suggest that one is better than the other. In fact, there are elements of both in any good creative product.

But still. You have to ask the question.

Creatively speaking, if it's an emotional response that you seek, you'll tend toward traditional storytelling. If you want to push the slider toward the other side of the response continuum, that calls for something different. Something we call Storyselling.

Storyselling is different in three ways.

Engagement. Job One of any successful ad is to engage the audience. Don't do that, nothing else really matters. A traditional story engages using entertainment, trying to lure in the curious and see if they'll stay with you. But when storyselling, you want to encourage the audience self-identify, to have them say, “Whoa, that’s me.” So you establish who you’re talking to right out of the gate.

Content. With a brand ad, the content is often the story itself. But storyselling replaces traditional storytelling devices, like plot and character, with information. Benefits. Features. Less emotionally evocative, certainly, but likely more personally relevant to your audience. The right information, delivered the right way, will help move them from thinking to doing.

Structure. Just because we're working with information rather than entertainment, structure is still important. How you move your audience through the message, how you deliver the brand proposition, how you support the proposition with benefits and tangible information in a logical fashion, it all matters.

The creative process works in mysterious ways. But before you dive in, ask yourself the all-important first question: Are you storytelling, or storyselling?