Cultural storytelling

Cultural Storytelling Through Advertising

As I started this assignment I immediately thought of the coffee commercial that was a short series like a mini soap opera. I began my searches looking for this coffee commercial as I always wondered what had happen to the couple portrayed in the commercials. One of the last commercials I remembered the couple was introducing their adult children and were engaged I believe. Then they just disappeared quite annoying actually. With some research I found the commercials and it was the Taster’s Choice Coffee couple. The story began with a well dressed woman going to borrow coffee from her handsome neighbor and grew from there (Richard, 1994).  They began to flirt with each other as he teased her about his “sophisticated coffee” and she quips back that her guests have “very sophisticated taste” (Dewolf, 1992). These coffee ads featured a British couple Anthony Head and Sharon Maughan (Dewolf, 1992). The series began in England with what was suppose to be three commercials for Taster’s Choice Golden Blend. There were thirteen commercials aired in the U.S. featuring this couple beginning in 1990 (Werder, 2007).  This next commercial features the couple meeting at a dinner party where Michael asks the woman (who is never named on a date):

Each commercial that aired was a cliffhanger leaving the viewers wandering just what would happen next. New commercial episodes were announced in TV Guide and on day time news so viewers would not miss it (Werder, 2007).  I have included another one of the commercials I found on You Tube and a third video that explains some of the back story of the commercials. The purpose of this digital story was to sell coffee. The social or cultural subtext was the romance between two coffee lovers. The commercials used a well to do couple, dinner parties, and cliff hangers to keep people enticed in this romantic intrigue. It was the upper class social settings  that allowed viewers to fantasize about a life style of the rich and beautiful and their good taste that made this series so successful.  The relationship between this sophisticated coffee couple kept people wanting to learn more about their brewing romance (Werder 2007). This commercial series was very effective because it kept people enthralled and sold lots of coffee. The commercials increased the Maxwell house brand by $ 596 million dollars and over three share points (Richard, 1994).

Commercials today are using digital storytelling and social media for selling their products. It has taken companies to a new level where they are talking to the customer not at them. In today’s market with social media and digital storytelling customers are looking for and demanding truth in advertising delivered in an interesting and compelling manner (Gleason, 2012).

A Cause: Cultural Storytelling

Midway the Film by Chris Jordan

I continued my search for digital storytelling in a cultural context and found a story of the Laysan Albatross of Midway Island. This cultural digital story is a video that a friend of mine shared on Facebook. I was intrigued by the video and felt that it belong in the category of a cultural video with a cause. These albatross have a breeding rookery on Midway Island and the video shows them bringing back plastic for their chicks. I researched the topic a little and found that the albatross are getting the plastics from the “great Pacific garbage patch” (Moore, 2003). This digital story is very well done with many of the elements of digital storytelling including voice of Chris Jordan, soundtrack, pacing, and point of view with emotion. As an ornithologist and ecologist this story saddens me. It is very powerful, but it made me feel powerless to help these birds or the Pacific Ocean. Moore says in his Ted Talk that I have also included though it isn’t necessarily a digital story that it is probably impossible to clean the ocean and the only thing we can do is to stop throwing plastic into the environment where it can be caught in the ocean currents and eaten by birds. You can also check out for more videos by researchers and Chris Jordan on Midway Island. There is a link for this and other information on the albatross on my Learnist curation. This is an extremely important environmental cause it not only effects these birds, but the entire ocean ecosystem. There is a small thing that we can all do to help these birds please never throw bottle caps away without first putting them back on the bottles. It was determined that much of the plastic the birds were eating and feeding to their young is plastic bottle caps (Moore, 2003). So please recycle when you can and never throw or toss out bottle caps.

Cultural Storytelling in Education

The last bit of searching I did I came across the digital story cultural exchange. On this website from New South Wales, AU they highlight several projects by students around the world including the day in the life, Koori Story Exchange, Digi Diaries and many other interesting projects. I have not had time to view many of these videos, but as a teacher I found this site quite interesting and worth mentioning. I will explore it more when I have more time. Digital Story Cultural Exchange

So my search has come full circle this digital cultural storytelling adventure began with a memory. It was there that my searching took me back to find the Taster’s Choice Couple. I don’t think the story ever was really resolved they met, they dated, we all fell in love with the romance. The last commercial was supposed to tell the ending of the story did she stay with Michael or go back to her ex-husband Andrew who appeared in the last commercial with her son home from college. We will never know, but romance sells and so did the coffee. More and more commercials are using cultural digital storytelling today branding still works, but a good story sells even more. Next part of my circle and digital cultural storytelling was a story with a cause that I hope we can all care about. The Laysan Albatross need our help. This beautiful pelagic seabird is threatened by what we do so we need to pay attention to what we throw away. This is part of the adventure we all need to go on together not just for the albatross, but for the Earth and all its biodiversity. So we come full circle back to education. There are so many ways that cultural digital storytelling is important to learning and teaching. I know as a teacher any time I can add one of my own stories to a lesson my students are engaged. And more importantly allowing them to tell their stories or stories of their learning not only engages, but gives them ownership of their learning.

Literature Cited

(2009, 24). YouTube. YouTube – Anthony Head – Taster’s Choice Commercial. Retrieved February 5, 2013, from

(2009, 10). YouTube. YouTube – Gold Blend Explained – Anthony Head. Retrieved February 16, 2013, from

Dewolf, R. (1992, 16). Featured Articles From The Orlando Sentinel. Taster’s Choice Soap Opera Ads Brew Ongoing Success – Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved March 2, 2013, from

Gleason, C. (2012, July 24). 5 Brands Taking Digital Storytelling To The Next Level | Ignite Social Media. Home | Ignite Social Media. Retrieved February 24, 2013, from

Jordan, C. (2012, ). Vimeo, Your Videos Belong Here. MIDWAY : trailer : a film by Chris Jordan on Vimeo. Retrieved February 14, 2013, from

Moore, C. (2009, ). TED: Ideas worth spreading. Capt. Charles Moore on the seas of plastic | Video on Retrieved February 20, 2013, from

Richard, L. (1994, June 13). Since its romantic couple first graced the airwaves in november 1990, taster’s choice has managed to increase its dollar share of the $596 million soluble coffee market by more than 3 share points, leapfrogging past folgers and maxwell house into the no. 1 postion taster’s choice rolls love potion no. 9.          Retrieved February 14, 2013. From’s-choice-managed-increase-dollar-share-596-million-soluble-coffee-market-3-share-points-leapfrogging-past-folgers-maxwell-house-1-postion-taster-s-choice-rolls-love-potion-9/86709/

Werder, O. (2007, ). Google Books. Critical Thinking About Sex, Love, and Romance in the Mass Media: Media … – Google Books. Chapter 3 Brewing Romance: The Romantic Fantasy Theme of the Taster’s Choice “Couple” Advertising Campaign Retrieved March 10, 2013, from


About jdoster17

I am a teacher in bush Alaska. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Limnology and a Master’s Degree in Biology from the University of Central Florida (UCF). My Master’s Thesis was Analysis of Reproductive and Spatial Nesting Patterns of a Wading Bird Colony at Gatorland, Orange County, Florida. This research was an integrated approach including reproductive ecology, ornithology, landscape ecology, wetland ecology, and statistics. I also attended the University of Memphis and earned 12 credits towards a Ph.D. in Biology. I will graduate from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in May, 2012 with a Masters in Education. I received my three year teaching certificate for the state of Alaska in October 2005 and my five year Professional certificate for the school year 2008/2009. I am highly qualified in accordance with NCLB to teach biology, chemistry and art through college credits and degrees. I have completed and passed PRAXIS II for Earth Science and Physical Science. At present I am highly qualified to teach art, biology, chemistry, earth science, life science, and physical science.
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12 Responses to Cultural storytelling

  1. Karina says:

    I found the topics you explored to be very interesting. I thought of the Taster’s Choice couple for a story, also, but got sucked into my own topic, instead.

    I’m a sucker for TED talks and an extremely amateur birder, so the Albatross story also hit a note with me. Unfortunately, I noticed that there does not appear to be a link in your post to the video that you refer to that shows the birds packing plastic back to their nests. I would enjoy seeing it to understand the whole story. A link to that you mentioned would be nice, too. And your “Digital Story Culture Exchange” link does not appear to work. Bummer.

    It looks like you’re actively working on your references–that may answer some of my questions.

    Overall, an interesting read with engaging ideas. Thank you.

  2. Skip Via says:

    I was SO hoping that someone would remember this ad campaign and use it as an element for this assignment. (Perhaps you and I are the only ones old enough to remember it…) Like you, I had forgotten the brand, but I did remember the unfolding story. I love the deconstruction of the campaign by the actors and producers that you included.

    I think you’ve presented some compelling examples of digital storytelling in a cultural context, but I feel as if you need to pay some additional attention to the essential issues of the assignment. You did mention a bit about cultural subtexts in your discussion of the Taster’s Choice ads, but that could use some expansion. For example, the couple in the story were clearly upper class (aristocratic?) and sophisticated. What was the subtext being addressed, and why did it appeal to audiences in the 90s? There was clearly an intentional element of sexual tension in that campaign. How did that play in terms of gender roles at the time? There was a lot more going on that just a love story. What were the producers saying about their coffee? Or were they even talking about their coffee? Maybe they just wanted your attention…

    I didn’t see these issues addressed in either of your other examples, which made them seem a bit out of place to me. How did they relate to the Taster’s Choice ads, or were they meant to? Perhaps if you provided a clear conclusion to tie these elements together, the inclusion of these additional elements would have made more sense.

    I think you have a foundation for a powerful response to the idea of cultural storytelling. It just needs some expansion and a clearer theme. I’m curious to see how others react.

  3. Gwandaii says:

    Nice examples Jodi, I totally remember these stories. They were pretty hot memes back in the day. Anyhow, I did notice one sentence that was a bit off “As an ornithologist and ecologist this story sadness me.” I think that was supposed to be “saddens me.” Nice use of the video clips!
    -Ed Alexander

  4. Sarah Finnell says:

    Jodi- I really enjoyed reading your blog….I was left wanting more! I have never seen the coffee stories, but enjoyed watching the interview with the actors (the first video didn’t work for me for some unfortunate reason). I would like to see the digital story of the albatross and would also like to see more about the Digital Story Cultural Exchange- it would be neat to see an example or two of stories from that group.

  5. Larry Mitchell says:

    After reading your posting several times, I am still feeling that something isn’t quite there. So I went back and began looking at additional videos as part of the coffee series and keep coming away with the fact that the audience was fairly focused and targeted and the series was about a multitude of smaller cultural issues … the American dream … the ease of greater prosperity … the idea that this “ticket” would lead to those things … so perhaps it more the need to run down some of those tracks to tie it together into a fuller story. Or maybe I am just not a coffee drinker and despite seeing the commercials they never drew me in.

    This actually brings about another thought when you look back at the elements of digital storytelling and the repeated aspect of emotional response. I think cultural storytelling almost has to, at one level, hit an emotional tie before the issue becomes larger and more involved and thus more compelling for the audience. This could also be further enhanced in terms of advertising within the cultural context. Maybe if the advertising doesn’t hit my interest than the emotional response doesn’t come and thus the cultural message doesn’t transfer.

    In any case … interesting look at the topic and if this in turn cause our audience to ask questions and delve deeper than a definite message has been passed along, a story has been told.

  6. kristine rosevear says:

    You went from a cheesy coffee commercial to an environmental issue. This did a great job of showing how immensely digital storytelling is shaping our culture. I love it.

    The first video would not play for me, but the second and third did just fine.

    One organizational thing that would make your post easier for me as a reader, would be to have headings to separate your two different examples. The spacing made me expect be still reading about the coffee commercial, but instead I was reading about a whole new topic. So, maybe just a little space, or possibly some headings would help out.

    Great job!

  7. Skip Via says:

    Your new conclusion does a good job of tying your examples together and summarizing your thoughts about storytelling in this context. Thanks for taking the time to rework things.

    One small error to correct: “The last commercial was suppose to tell the ending of the story…” Should be “supposed.”

  8. Kelly Gebauer says:

    Great content on cultural storytelling. I enjoyed the coffee commercials very much and wish there was an ending. I liked the balance of the content in your blog with the fun commercials and then the the more serious environmental issue topics. This statement, “There are so many ways that cultural digital storytelling is important to learning and teaching. I know as a teacher any time I can add one of my own stories to a lesson my students are engaged. And more importantly allowing them to tell their stories or stories of their learning not only engages, but gives them ownership of their learning.” I agree and letting us as teachers share culture and our students share their culture is very important in the classroom. Digital storytelling is a great medium for that. I enjoyed you blog and agree I would have like a little more discussion on the cultural subtexts and their impact a little more.

    Technical stuff. For APA I think before the citations at the end it is “References”.

    Just caught one error in this sentence “I was intrigued by the video and felt that it belong in the category of a cultural video with a cause.” belong should be belonged.

    This sentence needs a comma or another word to make it flow little bit more “So my search has come full circle (, or in) this digital cultural storytelling adventure began with a memory.”

    I keep finding little errors here and there in your last paragraph. You might want to read it aloud to help yourself to catch a missed s or ed or comma and for flow too. I think you might be able to break it up into two paragraphs to if you want for organizational reasons.

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