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Documentary-style vs. Traditional Ads: Choosing the Right Format for Your Campaign

Choosing the right format for your ad campaign is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a marketer. With more and more viewers turning away from traditional TV and toward streaming services and digital channels, it’s become increasingly important to be aware of different ad formats and their effectiveness. Two popular formats for advertising are traditional ads and documentary-style ads. In this blog post, we will explore both styles and help you decide which format is right for your campaign.

  1. Traditional Ads

Despite the advent of new technologies and digital marketing strategies, traditional ads continue to hold their ground.

Traditional ads are just that: traditional. They’re the kinds of ads we’re all used to seeing on television, radio, billboards, and the internet. These are typically short, focused commercial messages set to music, typically lasting between 15 seconds and 60 seconds. Despite the advent of new technologies and digital marketing strategies, traditional ads continue to hold their ground. Let’s explore just what makes traditional ads such a force to be reckoned with in the world of marketing”

  • Tradition that sticks – Traditional ads have been around for a long, long time. And, as the saying goes, if something has been around that long, it’s probably because it works. Traditional ads are an intrinsic part of our lives and daily routines. We’re constantly exposed to them while on the go or even while sitting on our couches. Although it’s easy to skip through TV commercials or ignore ads on billboards when driving, they still make an impression. This tradition, the fact that it’s a given we’ll see ads when watching TV or walking down the street, is hard to shake off.


  • Targeting specific audiences – Traditional ads offer the means to focus on particular audiences. Businesses know their target customers and demographics, and they use traditional ads to reach those audiences. For example, radio commercials air during peak driving times or TV ads for kids’ toys during after-school hours. Traditional ads enable businesses to use a specific medium to reach the right audience while saving them money.


  • Trust and Credibility – Keeping it simple and sticking to traditional ads can help build trust with customers. People trust physical ads, such as billboards, more than ads on social media or their mobile phones. These ads are tangible, and people are more likely to take them seriously, especially when purchasing larger items. Traditional ads allow businesses to build a credible and stable brand image.

While traditional ads are effective in quickly getting the message to the viewer, they are also more likely to be ignored or skipped over, particularly now in the age of the DVR and ad-blockers. Marketers often have to get creative to make their ads stand out in a sea of competitors.

  1. Documentary-Style Ads

Documentary-style ads, on the other hand, are a departure from the traditional format. These ads are longer, usually lasting from one minute to several minutes, and are more like mini-films. There’s no heavy sell, and often no product even mentioned until the end of the ad.

  • They Create Authenticity

Documentary-style ads often use real people and real situations to tell a story, rather than actors and scripted dialogue. This approach creates an authentic, relatable feel that connects with viewers on a deeper level. People are more likely to trust a message that feels genuine and honest, and documentary-style ads achieve just that.

  • They Provide a Unique Perspective

Documentary-style ads allow businesses to showcase their products or services in a new and unique way. By sharing the stories of those who use or benefit from these offerings, businesses can give viewers a glimpse into their brand that they may not have seen otherwise. As a result, viewers are more likely to see the value in what the business has to offer.

  • They Stand Out from the Crowd

In a world where we are bombarded with advertisements every day, standing out from the crowd can be a challenge. Documentary-style ads offer a refreshing change from the typical commercial format. Viewers are more likely to tune in and pay attention to a message that feels different, intriguing, and meaningful.

  • They Leave a Lasting Impression

Documentary-style ads are not just about selling a product or service. They are about telling a story that resonates with viewers and leaves a lasting impression. People remember stories far more than they remember facts or statistics, and documentary-style ads provide an opportunity to tell a story that will stay with viewers long after the commercial has ended.


Documentary-style ads provide more in-depth storytelling that engages viewers and provides more value. They’re less invasive and can lead to the viewer spending more time with the brand.

  1. Appeal to Emotions

One of the benefits of documentary-style ads is their ability to appeal to viewers’ emotions. These ads are more like short films than commercials and often tell a compelling and emotional story of a person’s real-life experience. Human beings are emotional creatures, and we often make decisions based on how we feel. Documentary-style ads tap into that emotional side, telling stories that connect with the viewers at a personal level. By creating an emotional connection between viewers and the story, it becomes easier for them to connect with the brand. This kind of storytelling is ideal for brands that want to create a deeper and more meaningful connection with their audience.

  1. Brand Awareness and Memories

Documentary-style ads are also great for increasing brand awareness and creating lasting memories. Through the use of storytelling, viewers are more likely to remember the brand and their message.

  • More cinematics – One reason why documentary-style ads work so well is that they use cinematic techniques borrowed from the world of documentary film. Rather than relying on flashy visuals and high-energy music, documentary-style ads use a vérité style of filmmaking that incorporates interviews, natural sound, and ambient lighting to create an authentic and intimate experience. This makes them more immersive and emotionally powerful, and helps to create a deep connection between the brand and its audience.


  • More Impactful – Another advantage of documentary-style ads is that they can be more memorable and impactful than traditional ads. Because they tell a story that resonates with people, they tend to create stronger emotional responses and can stay with the viewer long after they’ve finished watching the ad. This can be especially effective for creating brand awareness and generating word-of-mouth marketing, as people are more likely to remember and share an ad that made them feel something.


  • Cost Effective – Documentary-style ads can also be more cost-effective than traditional ads in the long run. Because they’re focused on storytelling rather than product promotion, they can be used for longer periods of time and across a variety of mediums. For example, Patagonia’s “Worn Wear” documentary-style ad campaign was created as a short film that was shown in theaters and festivals, but it also had a longer life as a web series, a book, and an ongoing website featuring stories from Patagonia customers about their favorite pieces of clothing. This allowed the brand to create a lasting impact without spending large amounts of money on traditional advertising campaigns.


Wrapping Up

Determining which style of ad to use can depend on a variety of factors, but it ultimately comes down to the brand’s goals and objectives for the campaign. Traditional ads are effective at quickly getting the message to the viewer, but documentary-style ads are more immersive, engaging, emotional, and memorable. So, when the brand needs to create an emotional connection with the audience while still promoting the product or service, they need to go for a documentary-style ad. Lastly, the brand needs to ensure that its advert reaches the targeted audience in the best possible way for their overall advertising campaign to be successful.

Why to Choose C&I Studios for your digital ad creation?

Choosing C&I Studios for your digital ad creation is a smart move for several reasons.

  • Firstly, our team consists of skilled professionals who excel in creating visually stunning and captivating digital ads. We understand the power of storytelling in advertising and know how to craft content that resonates with your audience.


  • When you work with us, you benefit from our expertise in research and strategy. We’ll ensure that your digital ad not only looks fantastic but also delivers a compelling message that aligns with your brand and goals. Our team is dedicated to accuracy, so you can trust that the information presented in your ad is reliable and double-checked.


  • Moreover, C&I Studios is committed to keeping your audience engaged. We’ll provide creative ideas for visuals that grab attention and leave a lasting impression. Whether it’s through eye-catching graphics, dynamic editing, or innovative concepts, we know how to make your digital ad stand out in a crowded online space.

Collaborating with C&I Studios means you get more than just a service; you get a partner invested in the success of your digital advertising campaign. We understand the importance of creating ads that not only look good but also drive results. So, if you’re ready to elevate your digital advertising game, contact us today and let’s make your brand shine online!

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