Empowering storytelling with visuals: 4 key principles for video ads

As you might have noticed, storytelling is one of our favorite topics; we’ve already had our say on why storytelling is not just a passing trend in a previous post, and it’s likely that you’ll find us going deeper into the the matter again in the future — starting from, well, now!

It’s not just a fixation: it’s that storytelling is the foundation of every piece of advertising. Ads are always based on stories (as simple and trivial as they can be), so the better you are at telling stories, the more appealing, engaging and effective your ads will be.

If you’re looking for best practices to follow for crafting a good story for a successful ad, we’ve got you covered here: today, we’re going to go one step ahead and focus on how visuals can give an extra-boost to your storytelling strategy.

We’ve recently stumbled upon a cool project by the NewsCred staff, who’s partnered with Getty Images to launch an interactive microsite called The Power of Visual Storytelling. Easy to guess, the whole project is aimed at showing how visuals can help brands enhance their stories; even if the website was apparently designed with static pictures in mind, its assumptions easily apply to video content.

The study stems from empirical knowledge and market research data:

All this leads to the conclusion that “with the amount of information in the world doubling every 18 months, visual stories are becoming more important to brands and individuals alike”, as stated by NewsCred. Of course they are, because visuals help you stand out of the crowd and get noticed.

According to the study, the four key principles of visual storytelling are the following:


People are better than ever at spotting fakes, and they’re always looking for something real, something that speaks to them personally; like candid moments from everyday life, true reactions to unpredictable events, or stories in which they can see something of themselves. Brands that succeed at communicating authenticity with their storytelling will build a solid link with their audience, because people will feel that their products and services embody their values, emotions, needs and concerns.

> Some ideas for applying this principle to video ads:

  • use a personal tone of voice
  • imitate the look-and-feel of user-generated content (non-professional shooting, low-fi amateur videos, videos made using smartphones)
  • give a unique twist to familiar concepts and topics
  • empathize with your audience addressing specific issues and/or matters
  • run social experiments
  • set up pranks or ambient activities and report the people’s reactions using hidden cameras


We spend our lives almost entirely online, but people want to cut through the screen, and be involved in visceral experiences: they want to go beyond pixels, to smell and touch; to reawaken their bodily self-consciousness. That’s why telling visual stories that stimulate their senses is often a good way to engage them.

> Some ideas for applying this principle to video ads:

  • play with visual effects (slow motion, time lapse, zoom in, high detail etc.)
  • involve people in analogic experiences and capture them with a camera (whether hidden or not, depending on your communication objectives)


For thousands of years, storytelling has been featuring an array of archetypal personas (the Caregiver, the Jester, the Lover, the Outlaw, the Explorer, the Hero, the Magician, the Sage, the Innocent, the Ruler, the Evil, the Everyman) that have remained more or less the same, because they are written in our DNA. Understanding the archetypal stories that shape our culture and values, brands can create more engaging content and better connect with their audience.

> Some ideas for applying this principle to video ads:

  • tell a familiar story from a different perspective or point of view
  • invent an alternative ending for famous stories
  • include quotes and references from easily recognizable sources (myths, tales, legends, famous news stories, historical facts etc.)
  • subvert archetypes using irony or paradox
  • use videomaking techniques that give your video an epic characterization


We happen to be living through one of the most exciting eras of history, and nothing reminds us more of this than powerful visual storytelling. To keep on top of the game and ahead of the crowd, it’s important to deliver localized content in real time. The difference between a great photo and a forgettable one is an instant gut reaction: viewers need to feel a connection with the brand through some regional or cultural relevance, while the brand maintains global appeal.

> Some ideas for applying this principle to video ads:

  • tell a story that is consistent with a specific holiday or special occasion/event, and launch the video timely (just before the holiday itself, or during the holidays season, or the same day of the event — depending on the case and on the brand’s objectives)
  • craft your visuals for the target: study their visual culture and the formats they’re familiar with, and then choose whether it’s better to stick to them or to experiment a little, in order to achieve a striking effect
  • “import” visual references from different cultures and/or ages for obtaining specific effects (eg: nostalgia, exoticism, futurist vision)

In Crevity’s Inspiration section you can find tons of videos that respect these principles. So go ahead, get inspired and let your creativity flow!

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