Story Appeal cre­ates audi­ence curi­ousity.  Basi­cally it’s the out-of-the-ordinary ele­ment that causes read­ers to guess at an explana­tory back-story or narrative.

David Ogilvy used the term in his book Ogilvy on Adver­tis­ing to describe the kind of pho­tographs which best grab reader’s atten­tion, as exem­pli­fied by this Hath­away ad:

Story Appeal

Here’s what Ogilvy wrote about Story Appeal (and this ad):

The kind of pho­tographs which work hard­est are those which arouse the reader’s curi­ousity.  He glances at the pho­to­graph and says to him­self, ‘What goes on here?’  Then he reads your copy to find out.  Harold Rudolph called this magic ele­ment ‘Story Appeal,’ and demon­strated that the more of it you inject into your pho­tographs, the more peo­ple look at your advertisements.”

The eye­patch injects the magic ele­ment of ’story appeal.’

Do you see how the odd char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Baron Wrangell char­ac­ter sparks read­ers’ curios­ity? One can’t help but spec­u­late about his back­ground, pur­pose in the ad, etc. — and so one reads the ad to find out.

Mov­ing the prin­ci­ple online, story appeal cre­ates click throughs from read­ers hop­ing to get the full story on your home page.  And the “click through” exam­ple brings up the obvi­ous point that Story Appeal can work as well for head­lines, titles, and tweets as it can for pic­tures in ads.

Note that this con­tent is a re-hash of one sec­tion of my pre­vi­ous Grok post, “Visual Scan­dal, Story Appeal, and Ban­ner Ads.” I’ve repro­duced part of it here to bet­ter explain the term “story appeal”


  1. How trouble taught me 4 ways to write better headlines (by Jeff Sexton) | Wiztimz on 02.21.2015

    […] Your head­line needs to hook the reader into read­ing your “story,” and sto­ries are cre­ated by and live off of con­flict. In fact,another phrase for trou­ble is “story appeal.” […]

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