Seven Story Types For Your Advertising Films

You know what you want your advertising film to say, but understanding how to convey that message in a manner which befits the screen and resonates with your audience can be a daunting challenge. Luckily, you can use the seven basic story types to bring meaning to your video content. If your goal is to grab your audience emotionally, then these story types are a great shorthand to pull at the heartstrings.

When creating video content aimed at driving sales, it is critical to appreciate that individuals rarely make purchasing decisions based on facts alone. Whilst fact-finding does play an important role when making in a purchasing decision; the customer needs to be moved emotionally before demonstrating a preference between competing products or services.

This is where story can be incredibly influential. Stories possess the power to inform, inspire and educate like no other medium. Dating back to before the first stories were written down, human beings have been making sense of the world around them using cave drawings, poetry, song and a variety of other methods to tell stories.


According to Christopher Booker, co-founder of Private Eye and columnist for The Sunday Telegraph, stories can be broken down into seven basic archetypes. By sticking with one of these tried and tested story types, your audience will very quickly understand not just the message you are communicating but the values which your business stands for too. The seven basic story types are:


The protagonist sets out to defeat an antagonistic force, which threatens the protagonist themselves or their homeland. 

Apple’s infamous first commercial for the Mackintosh was broadcast during the Super Bowl in 1984 and successfully positioned Apple as an agile brand which stands up against the status quo.

In the commercial, an athletic women sporting a hammer is the only thing of colour. The monster spouts propaganda or ‘doublethink’ from a giant telescreen (as they are referred to in George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984).

In the book the telescreens serve as both television cameras and surveillance devices. By destroying the telescreen the protagonist overcomes the monster and conveys the brands core values – individualism, speed and disruption.


An unfortunate protagonist acquires things such as power, wealth, and a mate, before losing it all only to regain it all upon growing as a person. 

They say ‘never work with animals or children’. In this fantastic commercial, O2 asks the audience to seize the day. This commercial is also smart because VCCP clearly paid attention to how popular animal videos perform online. Getting an animal to act out of character, even a digital version, was bound to perform well with customers.


The protagonist and some companions set out to acquire an important object or to get to a location, facing many obstacles and temptations along the way. 

Give a little more love this Christmas! In this heavily stylised commercial for John Lewis, the creative team behind the commercial borrow heavily from The Lord of The Rings to tell a story which conveys John Lewis’ family values.

The protagonist is a snowman who battles across rivers, blizzards and mountains only to bring back a Christmas present to his loved one. The metaphor is so effective because it can be neatly aligned with the struggles we contend with on a daily basis but feel so explicitly at times such as Christmas. 


The protagonist goes to a strange land and, after overcoming the threats it poses to him/her, returns with nothing but experience. 

In this classic ad directed by Jonathan Glazer. Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO draw on the archetype of the Voyage and Return to tell a story which conveys the values of exhilaration and adrenaline.


Light and humorous character with a happy or cheerful ending. 

Produced by Fallon, the agency were given a brief to create a concept which exudes the joy Cadbury’s chocolate brings when eaten. Comedy is a very diverse genre as it can be everything from situational, observational, cringe comedy and black comedy to name but a few. 


The protagonist falls from grace and whose death is a happy ending. 

Creating videos which possess negative sentiments can be risky business. This commercial effectively uses the fear of guilt to convince the viewer to be more diligent when looking after their kids. The goal is to alleviate the strain placed on the St John’s Ambulance service.

Whilst this commercial is very effective, using guilt isn’t an approach we would readily recommend for most videos. Positive sentiment nearly always trumps negative sentiments accept in extraordinary circumstances. In this video, the call to action finishes on an optimistic note thereby making the commercial more palatable. This ad follows the convention of a tragedy because it features death.


The protagonist redeems him/herself over the course of the story. 

Christmas is for Sharing – 2014’s Christmas commercial from Sainsbury’s commemorates 100 years of the now infamous Christmas Truce of 1914 where British and German troops came together over the festive period in an informal truce where they share in each others company and enjoy a game of football.

The theme of rebirth is conveyed when our protagonist, a British tommy called Jim returns to his trench having gifted his chocolate bar to how would be enemy Otto.

As you contemplate your next video production, take some time to think about which values you are looking to convey. Chances are the core message is relatively simple ie we have x product, y service or z campaign. All businesses face competition of some sort, and if you’re in an industry with many competitors offering a similar service the values for which you stand for can create a real point of difference.


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Customers purchase based on emotion which is why businesses must seek to engage with audiences on this level if they are to succeed. According to Paul Ekman, there are six basic emotions, Happiness, Sadness, Surprise, Fear, Disgust, Anger. In the 1990s Paul Ekman expanded the list to include some more complex emotions including  Amusement, ContemptContentmentEmbarrassment, Excitement, Guilt, Pride In Achievement, Relief, SatisfactionSensory Pleasure and Shame.

Story has played an integral role within the heritage of humanity long before the first stores were ever written down. The key to the enduring value of story is its capacity to inform, inspire and educate. Video has the power to move audiences like no other medium. If you need any help producing video content which is designed to move your audience and convey what your brand stands for then get in touch with Element 26. We have always believed in a story first approach to video making.

About the Author

Nathan Haines

Nathan is the managing director of Element 26 and an expert in video production and video marketing. Nathan enjoys supporting companies to grow their businesses using video. Get in touch on Twitter @element26uk

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