With the rise of digital media and a greater focus on uninspired factual ads, people rarely observe false advertising. Every consumer today is all about the truth. After all, a good bit of Google research can tell much about the truth in advertising. As such, sensible consumers can smell false ads that aim to deceive them from a mile away.
We can never contend the importance of truth in advertising. That's not up for debate.
However, the truth is not necessarily believable, interesting, or relevant simply because they are true. You must always wrap the truth in advertising under a compelling narrative. The strength of fact-based ads depends on how stimulating and persuasive you craft your advertisements.
Come to think of it. Why do advertisers use testimonials? Even when some of them are not entirely true, testimonials can sway the hearts of listeners. Which, in some way, adds more heft compared to bombarding consumers with dry statistics and data.
To uphold your truth in advertising, you must work with storytelling professionals who can effectively convey your story. This requires someone with fundamental knowledge of narratives and antenarratives. Lucky for you, we're the experts at it, and we'll give you a comprehensive guide in this article.
If you're interested to learn more about it, keep reading.
The Three Different People
Dean Rotbart, author and host of Monday Morning Radio, described people as having three personas:
- The first is the person you see whenever you look in the mirror. According to him, this is the person you believe yourself to be.
- The second persona is the person others perceive when they look at you. This is the person that others believe you to be.
- The third person is the real, genuine and unadulterated you. It is the rough average of what you see personally and what others see in you.
Here's the caveat: all of these things represent the truth.
What you believe yourself to be is your version of reality. Similarly, others see you as the person they believe you to be. However, given the nuances and differences in perceptual reality, neither persona captures the entire truth.
Now, how is this information relevant?
Here's the catch: everyone is deceived by their delusions. But there's a way to twist people's perceptual reality in your favor. The secret? Stories— the interesting ones.
“Know something, sugar? Stories only happen to people who can tell them.” —Allan Gurganus
The truth happens to everyone, but only storytellers can transform truth into stories. Whatever rhythm, style, prose or narration storytellers use becomes attached to the truth. In the same way, the truth in advertising takes its conversion strength from the narrative behind it.
All businesses possess a set of truths that form the foundation of their business. This same truth reflects in their story— the brand image, public communication and advertising. However, even staggering statistics and incredible facts lose their value when paired with poor storytelling. In other words, the truth and how you deliver them influence their overall impact.
If you want your ads to supercharge your truth in advertising, give it a good story. Or better yet, trust us to write those compelling truth-driven narratives for you. Book a call to learn more about how we can help tell your truth— in the most compelling way possible.
Antenarrative vs. Narrative
Talking about the three personas sets a precedent for fully understanding storytelling and the truth in advertising.
Everyone has heard of the term "narrative" before. It is typically used to refer to a coherent story with a beginning, middle and end. We often see narratives in movies, books, and other forms of media. A storyteller creates them in retrospect, arranging the scenes artfully and integrating them into an appropriate setting.
On the other hand, antenarratives may be a new concept to many readers and business owners. Antenarratives are people's unedited, incoherent, logic-lacking, chaotic and disconnected lived experiences. They are the unadulterated puzzle pieces that serve as building blocks before a story can happen. In other words, they are the way things happen.
A skillful arrangement of antenarratives, paired with perfect execution, results in a story that sparkles with fairy dust. Conversely, if the storyteller organizes predictably, the story will reek of a dog's breakfast. Punchlines are funny because they are strategically placed antenarratives that break a story's monotony and chronology.
"Antenarrative happens to everyone. But stories only happen to people who can tell them." —Roy H. Williams
Quentin Tarantino is one of the best storytellers and movie directors. His movies are composed of scattered bits and pieces of open-ended antenarratives that stand alone. However, he always finds a way to sew each scene together to create one cohesive piece. As such, it's impossible to predict the conclusion of his films, and they leave audiences wowing at the end.
The main keyword behind the strength of a narrative is retrospect. Specifically, a retrospective few of all antenarratives happened during those lived experiences. Through a retrospective view, people can recall past events and eliminate irrelevant antenarratives that do not support the story.
Like people, businesses go through their own lived experiences. The sum of all these antenarratives creates the truth of the brand. As a result, they reflect on a company's core values, guiding principles, company culture and even advertising.
However, not all antenarratives become part of that truth. When it comes to truth in advertising, you want to keep the best antenarratives that make your company look good. You won't create ads that deliberately incriminate your business, making audiences second-guess working with your company.
Pulitzer Winning Books and their Narratives and Antenarratives
Narratives are polished and varnished versions of antenarratives. Think of a research paper that's undergone many revisions before being the perfect rendition, ready for publication. However, some finely crafted fiction yet rough-hewn antenarratives make it to the big leagues.
Below, we'll look at two Pulitzer-awarded books that perfectly represent the use of narratives and antenarratives.
The Old Man and the Sea
"The Old Man and the Sea" is a classic novel by Ernest Hemingway. It features the epic struggle between about an aging fisherman and the greatest catch of his life. For 84 days, the Cuban fisherman called Santiago sets out to sea only to return empty-handed. Conspicuously unlucky, even his most trusted apprentice, Manolin, left his boat for others.
However, the intensity of the narrative began rising on the 85th day. Santiago went beyond the island's coast, trying his luck against the aggressive gulf stream. Finally, his bait catches a big fish that he knew was a marlin. The man tries to hook the fish back but struggles and the fish begins pulling the boat instead.
The majority of the narrative revolved around this push-pull dynamic. But during these moments, we explored countless antennaratives beyond Santiago's lived experiences.
For instance, Hemingway detailed Santiago's physical suffering and exhaustion. We also had the chance to enter Santiago's perceptual reality and existential thoughts. Finally killing the marlin, we are greeted with Santiago's battle against mako sharks and losing fish's meat to the predators.
The story takes an odd turn when an exhausted, empty-handed Santiago returns and goes into a deep sleep. During this, tourists and fishermen gathered to adore the carcass of the biggest fish they'd ever seen. Finally, the story closes with Manolin bringing Santiago coffee and talking about baseball.
Did you notice the roller coaster ride of antenarratives throughout the story? Despite these seemingly bizarre and disconnected details, Hemingway managed to piece them together into a perfect narrative. This complete narrative is now Santiago's story, and with Hemingway's perfect delivery, it also became everyone's truth.
The truth in advertising follows the same principle. How people view your brand's truth depends on how you effectively piece your antenarratives together. Some antenarratives will never make it in the final cut of your advertisements, and that's okay.
Because ad writers never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.
Let's look at another antenarrative-powered publication.
"Founding Brothers" is the brainchild of award-winning author Joseph Ellis wherein he explored the people that built America. In his landmark history work, he explored how deeply flawed individuals confronted the challenges to set the nation's course.
Ask anyone outside the US, and they'll describe America as the land of the free. Others may even add that success and wealth are achievable through hard work and determination. Despite the country still being rife with inequality and bureaucracy, to some degree, foreign people's perceptions have some merit.
However, that was never always the case.
The United States of America was more a fragile hope than a reality in the 18th century. While we view the founding fathers as great people, as we should, they are not free from flaws. History books tell the tale of their bravery in breaking free from Britain's grasp. But books will only delve into important antenarratives like their clashing personalities, troubles among the ranks and character flaws.
Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams and Madison were never perfect. And these shortcomings would have cost this landmass to remain an extension of England. But despite these challenges, America rose from the ashes of a shattered dream. "Founding Brothers" brings reveals the vital issues and personalities of America's Founding Fathers.
Here's the thing: they never thought after three centuries, people would refer to them as the Founding Fathers.
These antenarratives are omitted from history books and class lectures because they give America a bad name. The course of time could have gone differently considering their demeanors, dispositions and differences.
What matters is they signed the Declaration of Independence, right? That seems to be the problem.
"But you and I live under the curse of post facto knowledge." —Roy H. Williams
Antenarratives are the building blocks that form the truth— the story. However, our post facto or after-the-fact knowledge urges us to challenge the very foundations of the story— the antenarratives. That's why businesses integrate as many facts, statistics, data and truth in advertising. But that's where problems occur.
Post facto knowledge is always troublesome, especially when crafting ads, and Roy H. Williams has a comprehensive explanation as to why:
- Facts are not necessarily believable just because they are true.
- Facts are not necessarily interesting just because they are true.
- Facts are not necessarily relevant just because they are true.
You can't just throw in antenarratives and expect people to chew them up like a well seasoned, medium-rare steak. Wrapping those facts in a compelling narrative upsurge the impact and relevance of your ads.
Let me repeat what I said earlier: never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.
Ad Writers and the Truth Within Stories
Even the most popular brands use crafty narratives to convey their truth in advertising. Let's look at the antenarratives of some famous brands:
Harley Davidson's "American by Birth. Rebel by Choice" slogan
Japanese manufacturers have always taken the lead in motorcycle and car technologies for many years. Harley Davidson's marketing slogan is built around the central idea of giving American customers a sense of freedom. It is a freeing statement that breaks motorcycle enthusiasts from the shackles of superior Japanese engineering.
Harley-Davidson is an American brand, hence, American by Birth. Harley has also been associated with a rebellious spirit and a strong sense of independence throughout its history. Whether riding their iconic motorcycles or rocking the brand's famous logo, people always embody this bold, unyielding attitude.
Their target is people who value the prestige of owning one of Harley's badass gas-guzzling bikes. Millennials who firmly stand against vehicles for their environmental impact will never understand the art of riding Harleys. That's why Harley riders are rebels by choice.
Willie G. Davidson once said, "motorcycles have always been dramatic. They are not for everybody and never will be. This is a product that people can take to an extreme as a means of self-expression."
Capturing this essence in marketing messages has allowed Harley to remain one of the most recognizable brands in America.
Volkswagen's "Think Small" advertising campaign
Volkswagen was not too popular post the second world war. After Hitler's fiasco, redeeming Germany from shame and economic downfall was far from easy. At the time, the United States became the world's consumer superpower. The car industry was also growing in their favor, where muscle cars and sedans began booming.
Fifteen years after world war II, Volkswagen found itself in a bubble. They developed a two-door, odd-looking, rear-engine mini economy car called the Beetle. It was unique, but the looks didn't match consumer preferences at the time. Not to mention, VW manufactured the Beetle in a plant that the Nazis built in Wolfsburg, Germany.
However, Volkswagen's Think Small ad campaign turned Beetle into a global sensation.
How? Simple. Volkswagen conveyed the truth in advertising, but only the truth that mattered.
Allow me to retort.
Their Think Small campaign centered on a series of antenarratives that explained the advantages of owning a Beetle. Paired with great graphic design, Ad Age ranked the ad series as the best ad campaign of the 20th century. Here are some examples:
- They wrote "Think small" on a page featuring a plain white background and a small image of the Volkswagen Beetle.
- "And if you run out of gas, it's easy to push."
- "It makes your house look bigger."
- "We do ours. You do yours." They showcased a factory-produced Beetle on the right pane and a colorfully painted Beetle on the left. This ad ushered in a new wave of marketing called the "creative revolution."
- "They said it couldn't be done. It couldn't." In this campaign, we see the legendary basketball center Wilt Chamberlain beside the small Beetle. Volkswagen said the Beetle is not for the 7'1" but can fit up to 6'7" people with generous headspace.
In their ad campaign, Volkswagen shared many facts, a.k.a. antenarratives,, which brought the Beetle its well-deserved glory. However, they omitted some antenarratives that would have cost them their game. Some people would feel sore knowing it was manufactured in a Nazi-built plant in Germany. So they did the right thing, omitting a fact and highlighting other facts that make their brand look good.
Don't mistake me. It's not about deception, false advertising or lying to your target audience about defects or product flaws. That is plain wrong. After all, Harley-Davidson and Volkswagen never lied in their ads.
You're simply focusing on the antenarratives that perfect the narrative of your advertisements. In other words, you're telling a TRUE story that best serves your clients while also serving your business.
That is how you use truth in advertising.
Again, never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.
At Wizard of Ads™, we're all about conveying the truths that matter. If you want people to know your brand's truth, we can do it for you in the most compelling way possible.
Book a call with Ryan Chute, and let's reveal your truth in advertising.