Peo­ple have been telling sto­ries for thou­sands of years, and the ele­ments of what makes a good sto­ry have changed pre­cious lit­tle in that time. Through the sto­ries we tell, we not only enter­tain and con­nect with oth­ers, but we also con­vey infor­ma­tion about our own beliefs, tastes and aspi­ra­tions.

Brands use sto­ries in the exact same way, and the best mar­keters under­stand how impor­tant sto­ries are when it comes to demon­strat­ing the how, what and why of a brand’s offer­ing. Although the com­po­nents of a good sto­ry remain as they’ve always been, the process of telling a sto­ry in the dig­i­tal age has evolved con­sid­er­ably as new adver­tis­ing tech­nolo­gies have emerged.

It’s incum­bent upon mar­keters to ensure their use of new tech­nol­o­gy adheres to the prin­ci­ples and ground rules of good sto­ry­telling and adver­tis­ing. Rather than com­mon, lin­ear sto­ry­lines, we can now build com­plex sto­ry frame­works, cap­tur­ing the right user’s atten­tion, in the right place, at the right time, on the right device, with the right array of mes­sages. Sto­ries are no longer stuck on one set of rails but are capa­ble of more and more unique vari­a­tions. What fol­lows is an overview of the new com­po­nents of mod­ern brand sto­ry­telling in the dig­i­tal age.

Stories should be real time

When sto­ries are told around a camp­fire, the best sto­ry­tellers adapt to their audi­ences’ reac­tions and new infor­ma­tion they might pro­vide dur­ing the sto­ry. Today’s dig­i­tal brand sto­ries must do the same, and emerg­ing automa­tion tools make this pos­si­ble. Automa­tion enables data to be ana­lyzed and exe­cut­ed well with­in the blink of an eye, lead­ing to instan­ta­neous ads that can make use of a vari­ety of data sources.

One piv­otal way real-time adver­tis­ing can sup­port cre­ativ­i­ty and sto­ry­telling is through dynam­ic ads, which help improve effi­cien­cy and opti­miza­tion, as well as per­son­al­iza­tion. In short, a dynam­ic ad allows for the deliv­ery of mul­ti­ple vari­ants of the same ad through automa­tion, mak­ing it pos­si­ble for the same ad to say dif­fer­ent things depend­ing on who it is being deliv­ered to. A trav­el com­pa­ny, for instance, could take live data on flight options and then send rel­e­vant hol­i­day pack­ages and pric­ing to users depend­ing on their trav­el inter­ests, brows­ing activ­i­ty, loca­tion and more.

Reporting should inform your stories

Report­ing and attri­bu­tion are often viewed as being on the oppo­site end of advertising’s cre­ativ­i­ty spec­trum from sto­ry­telling. But in real­i­ty, report­ing has become a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of the brand sto­ry­telling process.

Data from accu­rate report­ing on user inter­ac­tions with an ad can be used for intel­li­gent retar­get­ing and can help exe­cute com­plex and adapt­able cam­paigns. User inter­ac­tions logged in an ad serv­er can be used to build real-time seg­ments, which can then be actioned and cor­re­lat­ed with cre­ative to build the sto­ry. It is the rela­tion­ship between the ana­lyt­ics, data and cre­ative that builds the fun­da­men­tal sto­ry frame­work.

Your stories must be built for reach

As adver­tis­ing tech­nol­o­gy enables access to more and more chan­nels, adver­tis­ers can extend their scope and speak to more users. With new chan­nels and media comes the poten­tial for more inter­est­ing and emo­tion­al sto­ry­telling, and adver­tis­ers have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to adapt their mes­sag­ing to make the best use of these dif­fer­ent plat­forms.

Mod­ern brand sto­ry­telling must be built to fol­low users as they hop across mul­ti­ple devices dur­ing their dai­ly inter­net brows­ing. Reach­ing the same user across mobile, tablet, lap­top and desk­top become an ever-present chal­lenge, par­tic­u­lar­ly when under­stand­ing their pref­er­ence for using each device. With pur­chas­es, for exam­ple, one user might favor their mobile phone via an app, where­as anoth­er may pre­fer their lap­top. Under­stand­ing these pref­er­ences is a chal­lenge that must be met for the sake of effi­cient retar­get­ing, fre­quen­cy cap­ping and to mea­sure a user’s inter­ac­tion with the ad. Cross-device is also required for suc­cess­ful sequen­tial mes­sag­ing across dif­fer­ence devices, a main­stay of mod­ern sto­ry­telling.

Don’t neglect relevance and reaction

Rel­e­vance and reac­tion have always been cor­ner­stones of good sto­ry­telling, and they are even more impor­tant in the dig­i­tal age as far as con­sumer expec­ta­tions go. Regard­ing rel­e­vance, data is bring­ing about a renais­sance that has the poten­tial to bring ads and users clos­er togeth­er. In fact, the key dri­ver behind the dig­i­tal adver­tis­ing rev­o­lu­tion has been the gift of per­son­al­iza­tion. Adver­tis­ers are no longer shout­ing into the void, but can instead tell sto­ries to users that they can safe­ly assume have at least some inter­est in their offer­ing.

Mean­while, every good sto­ry should elic­it a reac­tion, and mar­keters must ensure the sto­ries they tell are designed to elic­it the right ones. While mar­keters can use data to find the right audi­ence and ensure ads are reach­ing as many users as pos­si­ble, their ads need to form an emo­tion­al con­nec­tion with the audi­ence to move them to action.

Tech­nol­o­gy can and should help facil­i­tate the con­tin­u­ous inter­play between user and adver­tis­er as a brand nar­ra­tive unfolds. In this regard, tech­nol­o­gy nei­ther replaces or ham­pers the mod­ern brand sto­ry­teller. Lever­aged cor­rect­ly, tech­nol­o­gy can make the sto­ry all the more pow­er­ful.