The Two Types of Video

You’ve probably heard it said, “there are two types of ______ in this world,” which, to some degree, is true about nearly anything. Juxtaposition creates one group and leaves all segregates as citizens of the other, regardless of how particular or trivial. “People who like coffee, and people whose taste buds are broken,” for example. In the world of video, a similar generality is true. While there are many types that each of these two can break into -- and we’ll get there -- there are two types of video: advertisements and stories.

While the types themselves are not particularly shocking, this insight is: neither is right or wrong, better or worse. At least at face value. It is true that one is better in one situation, and the other in another situation, but whether your video is an advertisement or a story is unique to your organization, and is framed by your intent, messaging, and distribution strategy. So what is the difference? For our purposes, we’ll use the following definitions:


A direct, product-focused message with the intent to sell viewers on features, benefits, or price.


An indirect, narrative or emotive message with the intent to create or build brand awareness, goodwill, or trust in your organization.

You may be saying, “But I’ve seen plenty of videos that mix both! And...” and that is the main problem. The vast majority of videos created haven’t been properly identified as an ad or a story before entering production. Why is this an issue? Because, contrary to popular belief, people don’t “ love to buy, but hate to be sold.” People are very ok with being sold, so long as they know they are being sold to. An example: A retailer sends me “your ad of the week” via email, without fail, every. Single. Week. And you know what? I look at it. In fact, several times, I go to the store and buy that 2-for-1 pack of almonds because, gol-darn-it, deals!

The distinction we’re making isn’t that people are equally ok with both “being sold” and with “buying.” The distinction is that people are ok with being sold when -- and this is key -- they are, indeed, in on the sell. On the opposite side of that coin, while people love stories, they don’t know what to do or buy when -- and this is also key -- they aren’t told what to do.

Identifying upfront what your video is supposed to be, an advertisement or a story, helps in identifying the message while also clarifying how to most effectively measure it's success across the myriad distribution platforms (or mediums) that exist. The best way to do this is to ask who the main character of the video is: your product/service (Advertisement) or a character/narrative (Story)? 

Categories of Video within Advertisement and Story

Before we start, yes, there are many more “categories” within each of these types. In fact, if you want to get really crazy, you can even segment each category out further into execution styles: graphic, animation, production, live action, etc. However, for the sake of brevity, here are the most common categories we see within both types of video...


This is a small excerpt from our 2018 Video Marketing Guide. Want to continue reading? Sign up HERE to receive a free copy!

Hunter Smith