The Mini Story- The Future of Advertising?

I’m currently reading The Impact Equation by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. I actually should have had it finished at least a month ago, since I was one of the lucky ones to get an advance copy.  I guess I’m way too connected to my Kindle (and Kindle app for iPhone) for reading, because the fact that this one is paper pages means it never seems to be with me when I have time to read. But this post isn’t about my failure to finish a really great business book in a timely manner. It is about something I learned in its pages and the fact that Wham! I saw proof that they know of which they write.

And that proof came from a very unexpected place.

My guilty pleasure, the television show Revenge. Well, not the show itself, but the advertising during the most recent episode. Let me back up a little and share a little excerpt from The Impact Equation that I have marked with a little yellow post-it note.

“This is why platform is important–it is not a diversion from the audience’s interest. Those who care about cars will focus on the car channel and ignore the hype in between. Those who enjoy the fashion channel will, likewise, ignore the advertising between pieces of content, with one exception: If the focus of the advertising matters to them too, then the hype has a chance.But in most cases advertising fails, and besides, platform is more effective, is more profitable, and works better over the long term and finally, you have more control over it.”#

The emphasis in the above quote is mine because it’s important to what I want to discuss here. The book points out more than once that we are changing. The way we get our information is changing. The way we do work is changing. The way we make purchases is changing.  Yet the majority of businesses are failing to keep up with those changes. Particularly in the way they approach selling what they have to offer.

They are still clinging to the same old practices that worked when the family gathered around the TV to watch together. Now half of us are watching on iPads, while the remainder are either setting their DVR’s, catching it on Hulu or watching our own favorite show away from the rest of the family on our own TV or laptop. We fast forward through the commercials or use them to go grab another glass of wine. We don’t even sit through the Superbowl commercials anymore, choosing instead to watch them on YouTube. All of those advertising dollars might as well be flushed down the drain as their targets take a potty break. No one seems to be aware that change is in the air. Or at least that’s the way it appeared until I watched Revenge tonight. (Yes, on Hulu.)

It seems Target and Neiman Marcus have noticed and come up with a possible solution. The mini-story. A series of ads that seem to be a storyline from the show you are watching, in this case, the ads were titled “The Gift of Revenge”. Each ad ‘installment’ used aspects of the show itself, including some of the actors, to build suspense while showcasing what they were selling. Each one also ended with it’s own ‘cliffhanger’, leaving the viewer waiting for the next commercial break to find out more. I’d almost bet this kept more viewers in front of the television for the commercials.  I know it kept me watching.

But Target/Neiman Marcus aren’t the first to try out the mini-story, Toyota teamed up with the SyFy show Warehouse 13 for a series of webisodes called “Grand Designs” that were loaded with product placement.  And speaking of product placement, the Prius has been ‘appearing’ in plenty of regular Warehouse 13 episodes too, the webisodes were just a bit more hard sell with their own story line.

So is this the future of advertising?  And if it is, what can small businesses with no thoughts of making commercials learn from it?

It comes back to what Chris and Julien share in the book. Quality content with purpose. And not the purpose to sell, but the purpose to give readers, customers, clients, followers, circles…whomever you’re reaching out to, a ‘story’ that will make them stop and think. Something that they find interesting or identify with. Realize that they way it’s ‘always been done’ no longer works. It no longer makes an impact. Find something new that does.


1.”The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just …” 2012. 13 Nov. 2012 <>


Tina Marie Hilton provides online technology services to forward thinking businesses. She writes on her Tips from T.Marie business blog to share insight and information with other small businesses and entrepreneurs. It also makes her feel like that certificate in creative writing isn't going to waste completely.


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