MITX: How to Tell an Interactive Story in Advertising

November 5, 2015
November 5, 2015 Full Contact

While at Future M earlier this month, there was a lot of chatter around using interactive stories in advertising campaigns. An interactive story allows the audience to participate in the story and create a digital dialogue. It’s innovative, entertaining, and adds an emotional element that keeps consumers engaged. The basic guidelines for interactivity in advertising are similar to the guidelines for writing any good story:

  • Prepare participants for the story by basing it in a specific genre. Fortunately for many brands, their “genre” comes out of what they’re selling, or what their consumers are rallying behind.
  • Using a familiar plot on an unfamiliar medium helps the participant more easily navigate the story because of an initial sense of familiarity. How many ways have you heard the Romeo & Juliet storyline? For some reason, the same story told in a new way never gets old.
  • The classic story arch is the best platform for an interactive story. Start with the exposition, followed by conflict, and then the climax. If you have too many new parts the participant will get confused and won’t want to continue.

Although interactive stories are innovative in marketing, this concept is not new. Books allowing the reader to “choose your own adventure” have been popular for years. Making decisions like “Will your character go left or right? Down the hall or back the other way?” was an exciting proposition instead of readers thumbing through a static experience. It empowers the participant when consuming a book or video game, but does it translate that simply into the interactive advertising space?

At Future M, we discussed “jazz style,” or “come join us” style, as a way to bring this concept to life in advertising. In jazz music, a song has anchor points. A soloist can change parts of the song, but they always find their way back to the songs main anchor points. Telling an interactive story in advertising should be done in the same way. It keeps everyone moving in the same direction while allowing the writer to have control of the message. It also allows all participants to be successful and receive the whole message.

One example of “jazz style” done well was the Deja View campaign launched by Infiniti. The characters remained constant as they tried to figure out the details of their own story – who they were and where they were supposed to go. But the power behind the narrative was put in the hands of the audience to decide those details. It was an engaging and provocative campaign that put the viewers in the driver’s seat (pun intended).

If you are taking on the challenge of developing an interactive story as a part of your advertising campaign remember the key takeaways. But above all else, make sure you work this style into your overall content strategy. If it doesn’t make sense for your brand, then your consumers will not engage with it. And, as we all know, the best storyline, marketing campaign or jazz song won’t be successful unless there is someone to actually hear it.


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