Storytelling in advertising – a story of success

With the countdown to World Book Day on Thursday 2nd March well underway, I’ve decided to focus on how a well-known brand has successfully made storytelling a major part of its latest advertising campaign.

“3,2,1…action. A black and white emperor. London 1844, the foundries churn out change, there’s far more smoke than air and in this giddy town, far more working heads than places to lay them down.
You want your own roof? You better have pinstripes and money to spare.
Fortune favours the fortunate; small change there.
The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, who thinks they matter? Mr Cooper does. “Help each other and we all get up the ladder” Mr Cooper says, “we all get a share, we all get a vote, we’re in the same boat.”

Does the above poem sound familiar at all? Perhaps you know you’ve heard it somewhere but you just can’t place it? And you’d be let off, as it’s not often a poem features in a TV ad, yet alone in an advert for a bank. I’ll let the last line of the poem beautifully reveal the bank in question…

“Stand together and build. A nation of helpers, a nation of houses with hopers inside. A currency of kindness; Nationwide.”

The above poem was written by Jo Bell, a freelance poet, who features in Nationwide’s advert, herself delivering the lines in a way which captures viewers from the get-go.

Utilising the power of poem

Jo’s poem is the latest advert in the series of Nationwide’s ‘Voices of the people’ ad campaign which first launched in September 2016. Instead of using typical financial spiel such as “We’ll help you with your accounts” or “We can find you the best financial products”, Nationwide sought assistance from several freelance poets, just like Jo, to deliver their own poems and in-turn create attention-grabbing adverts through storytelling, which would become memorable to the viewers. The poems celebrate the voices and stories of ordinary people, and make the concept of a building society even more relevant to the new generation.

Before Jo’s ‘Building a building society’ poem, were three initial adverts which all featured poets delivering their very own poems to camera and addressing different issues within communities:
1) Advert one came from Hollie, who performed her poem on the experiences of being a mum of one, which underlined Nationwide’s credentials as a trusted children’s savings provider.
2) Sugar J Poet followed with his poem ‘Face to Face’ which discusses the theme of loneliness in a connected world. It emphasised Nationwide’s understanding of people who still want to talk to people face-to-face and underlined its commitment to investing in branches and people.
3) In the third advert Matt talks about the importance of having somewhere to call home in a moving poem about family traditions, which Nationwide used as a platform to promote its first-time buyer scheme.

Sara Bennison, Nationwide’s Chief Marketing Officer commented that: “These ads provide an opportunity for Nationwide to go back to its roots in a powerful, authentic and thought-provoking way while giving people a voice on the things that matter most in their lives .”

Immersing the viewers

The clever use of storytelling helps the audience resonate with Nationwide’s brand, something of a rarity in the financial services world these days; Salesforce’s 2016 research suggested only 32% of UK millennials believe their bank offers products to help them deal with the financial challenges faced by their generation .

This is where I think Nationwide has absolutely hit the nail on the head. While watching the adverts, I found myself being drawn into every line of each poem, not only because of the words, but because of the way the poet tells the story. Did I really find an advert about a first-time buyer scheme compelling, and was I really listening intently about how a bank plans to open more branches? Well the answer is yes, I was completely drawn in…hook, line and sinker! As a millennial myself, I feel that Nationwide truly understand the challenges Generation Y and I face today, and that’s all because of the effective use of compelling storytelling.

The rationale behind the words

Clearly the words chosen for each advert have done wonders for Nationwide’s brand, but it’s not to say that poetry will work well for every brand. The idea needs a rationale behind it and my guess is that Nationwide believed poetry would align very well to its overall brand statement of building enduring personal connections with its members. After all, poems help us to share ideas.

I believe storytelling can always help to bring a brand and its values to life, but the task is identifying the most appropriate format. So, get those thinking caps on, who know what success story your brand could be telling in the future?






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