Forget the pitch. Tell a story.

We’ve all heard of an elevator pitch: Explain your idea in 30 seconds or less and hope it resonates with your audience. In theory, it’s a good approach. And yet, it lacks emotion and human connection. This is where the power of storytelling can make all the difference. When you tell a story, you draw people in; you help them connect with a product or idea. A good story can make your audience more receptive. A great story can turn a mediocre pitch into a memorable presentation.

Consider the following commercials: Guinness’ “Basketball” spot and Apple’s “Misunderstood” holiday spot. Read the two pitches, then watch the moving clips.

Guinness – “Basketball” Commercial

Imagine this: A group of men are playing basketball. But it’s no ordinary game. They’re all in wheelchairs. As you watch, you hear only the shouts and sounds of the game: the ball bouncing on the court; the clanking of metal as the chairs collide; the swish of the net as a basket is made. Then you hear one of the men say, “You guys are getting better at this.” After a few more seconds of physical play, all of the men stand up—except for one. You realize that of the six men playing, five were using the chairs to include a friend who has a physical disability. The scene then switches to show the men gathered around a table at a bar. They’re enjoying a round of Guinness. Then a narrator says, “The choices we make reveal the true nature of our character.”

What’s exceptional about the Guinness “Basketball” commercial? It doesn’t focus on the product at all. Instead, it focuses on the story’s characters. It shows how sensitivity can go hand-in-hand with physical strength and a love for contact sports. It implies that a Guinness drinker can love his friends as much as he loves his favorite beer and his favorite sport. It tells a story of friendship and loyalty. And that’s a brand of masculinity I can raise a glass to.

Apple – “Misunderstood” Holiday Commercial

Close your eyes. Imagine for a moment that it’s Christmas. The snow is falling outside. The song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is playing in the background. You see a car traveling down the snowy street. In it, you notice a teenage boy with his parents. They seem to be on their way to visit family for the holidays. So you follow. When the boy’s family gathers, they make snow angels, build snowmen, and decorate the tree. But the boy seems disengaged. He’s glued to his iPhone and appears disinterested in what’s going on around him. Then, the whole family gathers around the tree to open gifts. That’s when you see the teenage boy pick up a remote. He uses it to sync his iPhone with the TV. Then, he plays a video — the one he’s been recording all along. It’s a sequence of the family’s most touching holiday moments. And the family’s reaction is as warm and emotional as the video the boy shared.

What’s exceptional about Apple’s “Misunderstood” holiday ad? It shows the power of the company’s products by creating a heartfelt, home-for-the-holidays story of nostalgia. It shows that we can use our smartphone for more than mindless texting or tweeting. We can, instead, use them to capture and share all the amazing memories we make.

What do you think about using the power of storytelling to pitch an idea for an ad?


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