Do Ads that Tell a Story Always Perform Better? An Anthropomorphism-Based Response: An Abstract
To understand the relative efficiency of storytelling versus factual advertising, this research builds on the notion that stories are made up of characters through which people vicariously experience the story (Escalas & Stern, 2003) and examines the roles of character identification and anthropomorphism in the effects of storytelling ads.
In study 1, respondents (n = 127) were randomly assigned online to a Budweiser commercial that was either a storytelling or a factual ad and rated their brand attitude, identification, and narrative transportation. Results revealed a negative mediating effect of narrative transportation (CI = −0.443; −0.058) and an indirect effect of narrative transportation on Ab through identification (CI = −0.195; −0.036). This study shows that ads that tell a story exert a positive impact on narrative transportation but also indicate that when an ad is framed as telling a story, narrative transportation is increased and leads to lower identification with the character, ultimately having a less positive effect on Ab as opposed to a factual ad.
In study 2 (n = 140), the same procedure was employed, but the brand was here Three, a UK telecommunications and Internet service provider. The same pattern of results was observed, with an indirect effect of ad framing on identification through narrative transportation (CI = −0.601; −0.026). Also, the mediating effect of identification was significant (CI = −0.138; −0.004), with narrative transportation exerting a negative effect on identification (β = −0.20, p < 0.001), which in turn positively affects Ab (β = 0.24, p = 0.001).
To test the effect of anthropomorphism, study 3 employed a 2 (ad framing: storytelling versus factual) × 2 (character: human versus animal) between-subjects design. Respondents (n = 256) were exposed to the brand Three. Respondents were randomly exposed to an ad and asked to answer a questionnaire. The same results as in studies 1–2 were observed. Also, results revealed an interaction between narrative transportation and character anthropomorphism (β = 0.35, p < 0.001), with a moderated mediation (95% CI = 0.001; 0.153). Specifically, when the character is not anthropomorphic, identification exerts a negative mediating role between narrative transportation and Ab (CI = −0.121; −0.006), while no effect is observed when the character is anthropomorphic (CI = −0.026; 0.051). These results indicate that when the character is not anthropomorphic, narrative transportation leads to even less identification and to a decrease in Ab.