Budweiser spent over 9 million dollars on their 60 second "Lost Dog" Superbowl spot because they know the value of a powerful story.

As of the Monday morning after the game, “Lost Dog” had 2,168,530 shares across Facebook, Twitter and blogs, according to Unruly, a video advertising platform. Why do people care about it amidst the overload of other ads and the game?

Powerful story structure.

Here it is: A sweet yellow lab frolics with his owner and best friend, a clydesdale, on a beautiful farm, until he’s accidentally kidnapped. The puppy ends up lost, stranded in the rain, and almost killed by a wolf until the clydesdale miraculously gallops to the pup’s rescue. The spot ends with the reunion of the owner, dog, horse and a beer.

According to Neruoeconomist Paul Zak, effective dramatic structures trigger hormonal changes in the listener. A puppy is an easy main character to love, and watching him prompts your brain to produce oxytocin, the hormone related to connection and empathy. When you worry about the pup, you generate cortisol, the hormone that increases focus. Then the happy ending produces dopamine, which results in a feeling of optimism. 

As Harrison Monarch details in his HBR article, this Budweiser commercial employs the same classic story structure as Shakespeare. This structure isn’t new, it’s just really effective. 

So the next time you’re talking to your boss, a prospective client, or anyone who you want to influence, consider using the structure of a story. Ask yourself, “If someone was going to make a movie about my message, how would they tell it? How would they make the audience care?” 

People love stories, so even amidst a crazy day they’ll usually stop for a good tale. Although it’s tempting to get your point out as fast as possible, take a bit of advice from Budweiser. They decided to spend $4.5 million more by doing a 60 sec spot instead of 30 sec because they knew a great plot makes a great pay off. 

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