Mastering Detailed Storytelling in Advertising

Detail is a fundamental part of storytelling. It imbues stories with meaning. This goes for storytelling in advertising too. Without detail, there’s no connecting force pulling consumers in, minds and hearts opening to not just the story you tell but your brand as well. 

Draw out emotions with detail

Would you be more inclined to care about a boy making a card or a 6-year-old boy making a card for his sick mother? Likely boy number two. 

In this instance, the details provide context and better set the scene. Why should you care about the first boy? You don’t know anything about him or his art project. 

The second boy is a sympathetic character. He’s young, which can bring to mind endearing images of messy, homemade cards that only parents could appreciate. Plus, it’s not just a card, it’s a card for someone he loves. 

You don’t know if the mother has a cold or cancer, but it doesn’t matter. You’ll feel sympathy for the boy regardless.


Detail unravels your emotions, tugging at them from all directions. And no, the detail doesn’t have to paint a dreary scene to be effective, it just has to paint something that will matter to people and draw out intense emotions.

Details should spur emotional highs and lows, from deep compassion to apathy and everything in between.

Neutrality is a fast-acting poison. If your ad doesn't emotionally impact consumers, you'll lose them. They won't buy your product because they won't remember your advertisement. They will remain unattached and uninterested. Ad spend wasted. No customers gained.

Avoiding the white room syndrome in advertising

If you’ve taken a creative writing class, you’ve no doubt been schooled on the “white room syndrome” (and how to avoid it). This occurs when a scene is so lacking in detail (outside of dialogue) that the characters seem to exist in a “white room,” meaning no sense of place is felt. That can remove readers from a story or cause confusion. 

While storytelling in advertising isn’t quite the same because consumers will be presented with a visual, the white room syndrome rendered impossible, you can still learn from it and apply the same concept to your ads. 

Rather than focusing on creating a vivid setting, create rich characters to fill the digital setting provided. 


Underdeveloped characters=an underdeveloped story.

What does an underdeveloped story lead to? Audience drop-off. If your audience doesn't care about your characters, why would they care about the brand story you're telling? More than that, why should they? You're giving them no reason to.

Character development 101

Every character has a unique story. In fiction, many writers know far more about their characters than explored in their actual stories. 

In advertising, it could be fun to delve into an imagined backstory for your characters, but it's not totally necessary. You need just enough detail to level up your characters from 2D to 3D, allowing them to pop.

Pretend you're selling ice cream. Your ad shows a woman going to her freezer and pulling out a carton of your brand's mint chip. She smiles as she takes her first taste.



Let's add some depth to your leading lady.

She's a single mom who just put her kids to bed. She closes the door to her kids' room and tiptoes to the kitchen, the pint of mint chip like a pot of gold at the end of a long day. Her posture relaxes once the mint chip is in her hands. She closes her eyes as she takes her first bite. Pure bliss.

With the added detail, the mom stands out enough to connect with consumers and tug at their heartstrings.

How much detail is too much detail?

Despite this blog article being about detailed storytelling in advertising, your ads don't have to be overly detailed, as discussed in our blog covering universal mirror experiences.

Too much detail in advertising can have a detrimental effect on how your ads are received by consumers. An excess of detail impedes one's ability to relate to the characters in an ad.

For example, let's think back to our mint-chip-loving mom. She is developed enough to star in an ad, but she's also general enough that consumers could easily empathize with her.

Any parent can probably relate to the sweet relief felt once the kids are asleep, their time their own again, however briefly. And most parents (or people in general) enjoy a late-night indulgence as the stress of the day melts away.

Once you master detailed storytelling in your ads, you'll be able to emotionally manipulate consumers, winning their undivided attention and business.

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