There’s a new study from the Advertising Research Foundation and American Association of Advertising Agencies that shows the most effective TV commercials are the ones that tell stories.

This really shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who’s around my age (32), especially the guys. After all, we grew up in the Golden Age of long-form entertainment-as-advertising. G.I. Joe and Transformers, along with Thundercats, He-Man and a host of others were cartoons second and commercials for the respective toy lines first.

But they told interesting (at least they were at the time) stories and sucked us in. We needed the Cobra Hydrofoil because it played such an important part in that new episode and we absolutely-please-won’t-you-just-understand-mom needed to recreate that scene in our living rooms. We…wait for it…created content. And yes, I realize that by actually typing that I’m in danger of having my keys to the Internet revoked.

But as we got older we realized we were being spun and marketing’s effectiveness, to some extent, wore off. Our enthusiasm for (wince) creating content (/wince) didn’t diminish, though, since we’re now online creating blogs, participating in forums, building our social networks and starring in online sex tapes.

More than that, a good story in the marketing still hooks us. The problem for many companies is that they’re no longer in the position of instigating those stories. Instead the inspiration is coming from our friends and contacts. That’s why social media is such an effective marketing tool, because when you weave together the points of view of three or four people who are discussing a particular topic you come up with a really good story.

Some people are good storytellers and some aren’t. Some companies are good storytellers and some aren’t. The trick is to know which one you are and make sure you either use that talent to its fullest advantage or get out of the way so those who can.

If you’re a marketer and you just can’t adequately tell your brand’s story in a compelling way, the best thing you can do is step into the pitch and let the community do it for you. But then it’s up to you to provide them the best possible tools to do just that – high quality photos, videos, product information, etc. That’s what getting out of the way looks like in that case.