top of page

Storytelling in a data-driven world

The data does not always make for good reading for the advertising and paid marketing industries. YouGov’s latest research into podcast advertising found that 60% of listeners found it intrusive and more than two in five were skipping the ads altogether. With just 14% finding ads to be interesting and unintrusive, it’s time to consider if the right message is getting through.

This is a challenge across different media channels as well, with previous research (both from YouGov and other providers) finding similar numbers for both TV and radio advertising. While, of course, advertisers will point to positive ROI metrics, there is undoubtedly a lesson to be learned from the data.

Same stuff, different channel

Finding the right balance between paid, earned and owned is a key challenge for all marketing teams, especially at this time of year. While they each have different use cases and can be used in a targeted way to achieve different specific goals, the basic premise should remain the same:

Good marketing = audience engagement.

Achieving that engagement in a world of ad-skipping, scrolling and blocking is easier said than done. One key ingredient is trust, but the data reveals yet more problems here. Advertising execs were the second least trusted profession in Ipsos’s 2022 Veracity Index, with just 14% trusting them to tell the truth, ahead only of politicians. Harsh, perhaps, but it underlines an ongoing truth: people don’t want to be sold to.

The lesson is storytelling, not selling

Nothing is ever as engaging as a good story. It’s a truth as old as civilization itself, but one that continues to yield results for marketing teams all over the world.

Take Christmas ads for example. It is arguably the only time of year that advertising generates positive and organic conversation; people discuss the latest John Lewis offering with their friends, and compare the efforts of the major supermarket chains. The most successful ones are those that focus on the story, the ‘spirit of Christmas’, rather than any specific products or deals.

The lesson is applicable across all communications disciplines. Credible, expertise-driven thought leadership performs better than sales-heavy sponsored content for exactly the same reasons. The Financial Times, to illustrate this point, advises marketers to sell “ideas, expertise and authenticity – not products and services”.

Finding a balanced strategy

Finding the right balance between paid, earned and owned is key to achieving a holistic and interconnected marketing strategy. Learning from the data is an important early step in this process and should see the best practices of earned and owned content being applied to paid media as well. The power that a well-executed, data-driven integrated communications programme can have is enormous and has the potential to change minds, win hearts and deliver enormous commercial value. It should be front and centre at any critical planning period. But it can’t be done in isolation; great comms requires a single vision, insight and an excellent team. Partnering with the right agency is key.

If you’re looking for a new comms partner, who understands how data can transform PR and marketing efforts and bring value to the bottom line, get in touch via


bottom of page