How Advertising Uses The 7 Basic Plots of Storytelling

There are seven basic plots used in storytelling. Here we look at how they are used in the world of advertising.

storytelling in advertising

Overcoming the Monster

One of the all time classic story telling genres, dating as far back as Ancient Greece (if not even further). The premise is simple. Companies use their all-conquering brands to overcome something, either literally or metaphorically, monstrous. You will often see cleaning companies using this storyline – this Domestos advert being a great example – where pesky germs are vanquished once and for all by the all powerful, all dominating antibacterial cleaner.


Many of the most popular stories throughout the centuries have contained elements of rebirth or resurrection. From biblical times through to Harry Potter and Doctor Who, regeneration has always been popular with readers. Advertisers have identified that rebirth is a great selling point, particularly in market segments such as the cosmetic and life insurance industries. Oil of Olay are one of many companies who make a big play of the ‘regenerating’ properties of their product.


The good old pursuit of perfection is a great selling point to customers in much the same way that the quest in the Lord of the Rings, or The Wizard of Oz has been a big selling point to cinematic audiences. I know from my own experience as a child being seduced by the Clarks Magic Steps Shoes advert. Latterly, IT and car manufacturers such as Honda have made a big play of the research that goes into making the best product they possibly can.

Journey And Return

Stories like Where the Wild Things Areor The Chronicles of Narnia where characters go on a great journey, experience new and mysterious things and come back with a new, or refreshed outlook on life grab hold of the imagination. In today’s cut and thrust world, holiday companies in particular such as Expedia, are quick to promote the idea of discovering something new whilst on holiday.

Rags To Riches

This is another familiar tale throughout history and literature which the majority of people aspire to. From Cinderella to Oliver Twist and beyond, a poor person made rich not only warms the heart but also gives us commoners a degree of hope that one day, it might just be us. Jack Daniels is a good example of how the son of immigrants was able to make good the American dream.


Shakespeare and the ancient Greeks were the undisputed masters of writing tragedy. Sometimes, just sometimes a short sharp shock works just as well as a tale with a happy ending. Many charities will use this storyline, using emotions and injustice to our sense of humanity. Cancer Research UK for example, have a big advertising presence using real-life stories from cancer survivors, or families to inspire us to donate and help the fight.


The flip side to tragedy, nothing sticks in the mind better than something which makes us laugh – as anyone who has read Three Men in A Boatwill attest. The same applies to adverts. Growing up, the two adverts which kids at school referenced were this one from Hamlet and this one from John West. What they were advertising wasn’t relevant, what was relevant was the way they stuck in our minds and never failed to make us laugh.

Are there any adverts which transcend these genres? Are there any which don’t fit into any? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author: John Rogers is a professional blogger who has a keen interest in advertising. He recommends Space City.

Photo credit: K. Peter Schmidt via photopin cc