Effective Video Advertising Means Being More Human (and you know it)

We live in a society obsessed with technical solutions but the answer to effective video advertising lies in something simpler. We need to be more human.

Be it tears of laughter or joy, to be ‘human’ simply means tapping into the everyday emotions which bring us together. 

Fortunately, there is an established shorthand for success: Christopher Booker’s basic story types are seven powerful narrative structures we regularly use to create meaning.

When creating early touch video content such as broadcast or online ads, it’s important to appreciate that users aren’t usually in buying mode –  in fact, you’re more likely to be interrupting them rather than something they are actively looking for.

With this in mind, so long as we accept that broadcast and online ads are usually about as welcome as a door-to-door salesman, the idea that effective video advertising demands a positive first impression quickly comes sharply into focus.

This is where the seven basic story types can really help:


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

Brand: Apple
Year: 1984
Agency: Chiat/Day


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. 

Brand: O2
Year: 2013
Agency: VCCP


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

Brand: John Lewis
Year: 2012 
Agency: Adam & Eve


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

Brand: Guinness 
Year: 1999 
Agency: AMV BBDO


Light and humorous character with a happy or cheerful ending. 

Brand: Cadbury’s 
Year: 2007 
Agency: Fallon


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

Brand: St John’s Ambulance
Year: 2013 


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

Brand: Sainsbury’s 
Year: 2014 
Agency: AMV BBDO

'While information may help change that emotion state, it’s the emotion that’s important, not the information'.

Geoffrey James, Inc

Customers purchase based on emotion which is why businesses must seek to be more human.

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.

If you’re looking to create effective video adverts why not get in touch with us for a quick chat.

[This article was originally published in April of 2015 but has been updated in January 2021]

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