Copywriting Tip: The Advertiser is Not the Hero of the Story

When you sit down to write an ad, you have a chance to tell a story. Who is the hero of the story? It’s not the advertiser.

radio and tv advertising: the customer's customer is the hero of the story

photo by likstudio/dpc

In his e-book How to Tell a Story, Donald Miller lays out a very effective structure for a marketing piece:

A character [the hero] as a problem, then meets a guide who gives them a plan and calls them to action.

That action, Miller explains, either results in a happy ending or a sad ending. For example:

In the movie Star Wars, Luke Skywalker wants to fight against the evil empire, but he also wants to know if he has what it takes to be a Jedi. He meets a guide named Yoda who gives him confidence, a plan, and training to go out and defeat the enemy. The happy ending happens when Luke destroys the Death Star and preserves the Rebellion to fight another day.

In the stories you are constructing for your clients, the advertiser is not the hero – the advertiser is the guide. The advertiser’s customer is the hero.

  • A man wants to buy a car but has lousy credit. He meets a guide – your car dealership client – who helps him get a car loan at an affordable rate and payment, and and puts him on the path to rebuilding his credit. The happy ending occurs when his new car pulls into his driveway.
  • A couple is frustrated that their home is too hot in the summer, it’s drafty in the winter, and their energy bills are too high. They meet a guide – your window dealer client – who shows them how new triple-pane windows will make their home more comfortable and bring their energy bills down.
  • A woman looks in the mirror and doesn’t like what she sees. She meets a guide – your aesthetic medicine client – who shows her how the clinic’s whizbang laser will make her look 10 years younger with no surgery, scars, or downtime.

A way to get started: begin your first draft by writing the words “This is a story about…”

Then answer the following questions:

  • Who is the hero? Write a brief description of your advertiser’s target customer.
  • What problem is the hero experiencing that your client – and the guide – can help solve?
  • What’s the plan – what product or service will the advertiser offer to solve the problem?
  • What is the happy ending that this plan will produce?

Now you’ve got an infrastructure to design your campaign.

One other note to keep in mind: when you are marketing yourself and your medium to potential advertisers, you also have a story to tell.

You are not the hero of the story – you are the guide.

Question: What’s the best story you’ve written for an advertiser? You can leave a comment by clicking here.



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