Video advertising in the United States is estimated to grow from USD$35.45 billion in 2020 to USD$69.43 billion in 2024 (eMarketer.com, 2020). Video advertising is particularly effective among 16–24-year-olds (70%) and 25–34-year-olds (64%) who have watched some types of social media videos in the past month (Williamson, 2019).
Because of its popularity, 24% of marketers in North America have invested in brand storytelling videos (HubSpot, 2020). In terms of delivering branded contents, video storytelling advertising is very similar to narrative advertising that has been popular since 1998 (Bacon, 2013; Brechman & Purvis, 2015; Chang, 2008; Chiu et al., 2012; Escalas, 1998; Lien & Chen, 2013). Both formats enable advertisers to use drama ads, slice of life ads and transformational ads (Escalas, 2004) to tell a brand story. This advertising format has the benefit of conveying an emotional appeal about a brand, in particular, when consumers are transported into the narratives in the ad to facilitate brand attitude changes (Brechman & Purvis, 2015) and word-of-mouth communication (Langaro et al., 2019). However, unlike narrative ads in traditional television or print media platforms, video storytelling advertising relies on connected television, desktop and laptop, and mobile platforms (eMarketer.com, 2020).
Given its growing importance in the digital advertising industry, scholars have applied narrative advertising theories to study video storytelling advertising (Chen & Chang, 2017).
In this study, we use video storytelling and narrative advertising interchangeably because both perform the same function to convey ‘the core message by telling a [brand] story’ (Escalas, 1998, cited in Lien & Chen, 2013, p. 517) and to create a connection ‘between brands in an ad story and the achievement of self-related goals’ (Escalas, 2004, p. 168).
A brand story also makes consumers feel that the brand resonates with their own personal life to create better engagement (Kim et al., 2016). Its fidelity and narrative probability also make a brand story ad believable (Lim & Puspita, 2020).
A successful video storytelling advertising campaign can cause ‘brand energy; capable of brand differentiation. A strong and valuable brand also contributes to its growth in the age of a global coronavirus pandemic (Kantar, 2020).
Existing research has generally confirmed that a narrative advertising campaign can generate better persuasion results (Lien & Chen, 2013). Past studies examined this phenomenon by studying consumer’s information processing of video storytelling elements (such as music, humour or spokespersons) and product features, or mediating mechanisms (such as ad-induced feelings, narrative transportation and self-brand connections—SBCs) (Lien & Chen, 2013).
Duration, flow, frequency and relevance of video storytelling ads were also found to predict retention of ad messages (Dhote & Kumar, 2019). Brechman and Purvis (2015) further examined whether brand narratives can stimulate consumers’ attitude changes after being transported into a fictitious world. Their study concluded that the effectiveness of narrative advertising also depends on consumers’ receptivity to narrative advertising.