We often confuse the two. We start with the presumption that an ad is a story. Ultimately, it is story-selling in its most basic form.
Example of Storytelling –
Lifebuoy soaps – Help a child reach 5. This brand exists because there are people in various parts of India that don’t have access to effective hygiene. This kind of niche, but impactful, message suggests to the customers that Lifebuoy has done their due-diligence and cares enough to talk to remote villagers about their critical problems. It answers the question – “Why we are here” with its brand story.
Example of advertising –
A) Nike – Jogger Ad. This is a perfect example where marketers may confuse this to be storytelling. A story of the young boy that wants to lose weight is introduced here, with an inspiring message at the end. Sure, this looks like storytelling and can be confused with Nike’s “Why are we here”, but it speaks nothing about the brand itself. It’s a product placement in a movie. It’s emotional, but doesn’t deliver beyond the edit.
Comparison Note –
Both iconic campaigns. Both delivered effectively.
In the case of Lifebuoy, there was a clear message. Lifebuoy is here to aid Indian children. In the case of Nike, there was no clear message. Does Nike want to inspire kids? Or does it say that greatness starts with a pair of shoes? The message is somewhat there, the consumer resonance is present, but it is not core storytelling.