Pixar: 10 Tips for Creating Appealing Stories for Ad Agency New Business

story shots for ad agency new business

A powerful story is your secret to connecting with prospective clients.

Developing the ability to craft compelling stories is an important skill set for agency new business. Stories engage attention and inspire action. I have witnessed my fair share of agency presentations. Most provide thorough content based upon good research, but what is often lacking is emotion. You need to take the time to find just the right stories and examples that will bring your content to life.

“Emotion is the fast lane to the brain”,Doug Stevenson, Guru of storytelling in business.

Instead of focusing initially on the content, Doug advises that you focus first on how you want people to feel. Then create your content to achieve that purpose. He emphasizes the importance of well-chosen and crafted stories that are your best bet for enlisting an emotional response.

If you want to create appealing content and compelling presentations that are different from the typical agency, be innovative and discover resources outside of our industry. For instance, one of the most helpful books I have read that has enlivened my presentations and writing is Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting, written by Robert McKee.  Robert provides the best principles and examples of story construction that I have read anywhere. I have a better understanding of how a traditional story works and what makes a great story.

I discovered another innovative resource that I thought I’d share with you. This comes from Emma Coats, Story Artist at Pixar Animation Studios. She recently shared “22 Story Basics I’ve picked up in my time at Pixar” in a post article written for her blog, Story Shots.

“A mix of things learned from directors & coworkers at Pixar, listening to writers & directors talk about their craft, and via trial and error in the making of my own films.”

Out of the 22 story basics from Emma’s list, here are 10 insightful tips for creating appealing stories for content marketing and agency presentations:

  1. “You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.”
  2. “Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.”
  3. “What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  4. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.”
  5. “Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.”
  6. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.”
  7. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.”
  8. “What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.”
  9. “You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  10. “What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Click on the following link to read Emma’s article, “22 Story Basics I’ve picked up in my time at Pixar”

Additional articles that may be of interest:

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. Stories sell without getting in their own way. The reason for this, I think, is that stories don’t push facts, opinions or beliefs on their audiences. Rather they allow audiences the freedom to engage their own thoughts and reach their own conclusions. As a rule, we don’t like being told that the answer to 2+2 is 4. We’d rather come up with the answer ourselves.

  2. Michael Gass says:

    Thank you for your insights Jim … who by the way is the author of “StoryBranding: Creating Standout Brands Through the Power of Story”. I’ve just finished the second chapter and will provide a review for the readers of Fuel Lines. Jim is the founder and CEO of ESW Partners, one of the top 25 agencies in Chicago. Check out their website http://www.eswpartners.com/storybranding

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