As the art of storytelling makes an advertising comeback, Sublime’s Andrew Buckman argues that marketers need to incorporate mobile into the process to better drive consumer engagement and action.

Brands are rediscovering the power of relatable characters and emotive plotlines to engage audiences and build lasting relationships. A renewed focus on narrative is evident in this year’s Christmas campaigns in the UK, from a mischievous fool who tries increasingly inventive ways to ruin Christmas (Argos) to the character of Kevin the Carrot whose adventures are entertaining viewers for a third year (Aldi).

But as they get creative with brand storytelling, advertisers mustn’t forget to extend their activities to mobile, using this perfectly placed channel to continue and deepen the narrative across devices that are always to hand and play an ever greater role in the customer journey.

Mobile makes its own unique contribution to brand storylines and is already taking centre stage in festive campaigns, with seasonal mobile spend expected to surge by a quarter to £953m, while TV spend declines by £44m. Brands such as Marks & Spencer are taking a mobile-first approach to their Christmas stories, with reduced focus on TV commercials and increased investment in mobile and social content that guides the customer through the entire funnel.

So how can advertisers make the most of mobile to deliver creative storytelling that entertains, inspires, and engages audiences?

Design creative specifically for mobile devices

While most brands see the power of mobile advertising, they don’t always understand the need to use mobile-specific formats rather than simply ‘shrinking’ the creative used on TV or desktop. But the mobile experience is completely different to other screens and requires tailor-made advertising.

Designing specifically for mobile means embracing non-intrusive formats that grab user attention without blocking content, such as persistent banners at the bottom of the screen that are only displayed in full once the user reaches the end of content. It means using mobile-specific outstream or in-feed formats that are designed to integrate seamlessly with the content on the page. It means shooting mobile video ads vertically, rather than cropping horizontal video, due to the way users naturally hold their smartphones. And it means using formats that are activated by a definite action such as a swipe, rather than click which is easy to make in error.

Optimising ads for mobile devices creates a positive environment where the user can fully immerse themselves in the brand story, rather than being irritated by a poor advertising experience.

Use mobile functionality to involve audiences in the story

The native functionality of mobile devices ensures they are well suited to interactive advertising that involves users in the brand story, potentially allowing them to influence its progression and shape their own experiences. Maybe they could choose their own ending to a video ad or take a selfie to place themselves as a character in a display ad. Mobile creative can incorporate interactive elements such as 360° product views and slideshows to make ads immersive and engaging, with a Magna media trial revealing interactive ads have a nine-times higher impact on purchase intent than standard ads.

Personalise the narrative through mobile data

Technologies such as programmatic creative help to drive brand storytelling through message sequencing, allowing the user to be taken on a journey as the narrative unfolds rather than simply seeing the same creative over and over again. New content can be introduced and revealed at the opportune moment to keep the storyline fresh and exciting.

The same technologies also enable ad creative to be dynamically personalised to the individual, choosing the most relevant creative elements and combining them into the ad iteration most likely to drive action with that particular user. Mobile devices produce vast amounts of data that help advertisers understand the user’s immediate context as well as their preferences, so creative can be adapted in real time to suit their location, device, interests, and position in the purchase funnel, actively engaging them in the brand story.

As storytelling returns full-force to brand advertising, mobile is the channel that will develop the narrative, allowing consumers to fully engage with the characters and the worlds they inhabit. If brands embrace mobile-specific formats, introduce interactive elements into their creative, and customise the story through dynamic personalisation and sequencing they can take full advantage of mobile’s ability to immerse and engage the user, using the art of storytelling to drive them to action.