F*ck storytelling (notes)

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Advertising's obsession with storytelling is an overused and limiting cliché. Experience and action trump story. In a post-digital age, technology isn't merely a means to deliver stories, it's an essential element of creative ideas.

Video of the presentation is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jMywXG6AWQ


NOTE: This is the notes version of the presentation. Since I had to PDF it, it lacks animated GIFs and videos, although video links are included int he notes. I'll upload a notes version and video of the presentation shortly.

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F*ck storytelling (notes)

  1. 1. Presented by Mark Logan (@mlogan) January 29, 2014 to AAF-KC:
 ! So, I’m just going to take it on faith that if you showed up her for a 7:30 AM breakfast presentation called “Fuck Storytelling,” you’re not offended by strong language. But in case you are, I’ll apologize in advance for my use of the word “storytelling.”
 
 
 There are two things I want you to know about the title. First, it was a literal utterance that came out of my mouth, here in this room a few months ago. We were having a meeting with a bunch of the creatives here at Barkley, and Tom Demetriou, who is a fabulous CD here and who I love very much, started waxing on about storytelling and said something like “It’s all about storytelling.” And I just blurted out these words, reflexively. And the room got really silent and everyone looked at me like I had just said the most blasphemous thing anyone could say. And really in that moment, I knew I had to create this presentation.
 The second thing I want to say about this title is that apparently, profanity works. Gerry told me that this was one of the best responses that AAF-KC has ever had to a Wednesday accelerator. So, I’m really proud to announce that the format for Wednesday accelerators has changed moving forward, and you can look forward to these sessions in the next couple of months.
  2. 2. FEBRUARY BIG DATA BLOWS MARCH SCREW SOCIAL MEDIA
  3. 3. WE STORIES 
 Here’s the thing. We people in the advertising business. We love us some stories. We really, really love stories. And storytelling.
 You can’t swing a dead cat in a room of ad people without someone talking about storytelling.
  4. 4. “ADVERTISING IS GREAT STORY-TELLING.” DAVID SABLE, YOUNG & RUBICAM Suit-wearing executives with excellent hair love storytelling. ! Fuck ‘em.
  5. 5. “SIMPLE OR ELABORATE ADS ALWAYS TELL A GREAT STORY.” MARC GIUSTI, LEO BURNETT 
 Scarf-wearing digital dudes with thinning hair love stories. 
 Them too.
  6. 6. “THE BRAND IS A STORY.” SETH GODIN Glasses-wearing pundits with no hair love stories. ! Tell him, Molly. !
  7. 7. “IF YOU AIN’T TELLIN’ STORIES, YOU AIN’T SHIT.” TOM DEMETRIOU, BARKLEY And even lovable Creative Directors with facial hair are in love with story telling. ! I love that Mr. Rogers smiles even when he’s flipping you off.
  8. 8. If you Google Advertising and Storytelling. You’ll get so many damn results that the NSA couldn’t log them all.! ! “Seduce me with your story of storytelling for Miracle Whip just like Dickens, Hemingway and Michelangelo would do.” Ugh.! ! This was my favorite headline.! !
  9. 9. TRENDY AND TRENDING And the topic of storytelling has become trendy. And you can see it in the volume of tweets that mention storytelling in the last few years.
  10. 10. “…DIGITAL STORYTELLING IS AT THE CORE OF ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING WE DO.”
 STEPHEN GOLDBLATT, BAZILLION “VIA PATCHCHORD.COM: LEE CLOW AND ALEX BOGUSKY: STORYTELLING & THE FUTURE”
 JOHN KREICBERGS, @PATCHCHORD “WE TELL STORIES. THAT’S IT.”
 CHRIS O’CONNOR, LIQUID9 “STORYTELLING IN DIGITAL IS A MUST ACROSS THE BOARD.”
 AARON EVANSON, VML “WE HAVE BEEN DIGITAL STORYTELLERS SINCE THE BEGINNING.”
 TERI ROGERS, HINT “WHEN STORYTELLING BECOMES STORY DOING: THE EMPLOYEES LIVE THE BRAND.”
 JEFF FROMM, BARKLEY And here in Kansas City, we’re just as enamored with stories. Look at all these recent mentions of storytelling, from some of you here in this room.
 
 I have a special level of profanity for the whole “story-doing” construct. But we’ll get to that. ! So here’s point number one. Storytelling is overhyped and overused. Everybody is a storyteller. It’s certainly not a very differentiated position.

  11. 11. “... THE WORLD’S FIRST POST-ADVERTISING
 AGENCY, APPLYING ESTABLISHED STORYTELLING
 TECHNIQUE AND TALENT …”
 ! ! And look here, here’s even an agency called . . . TA DA . . . STORY
 
 ! They bill themselves as the worlds first post-advertising agency.! What a load of pretentious crap.!
  12. 12. I’m not saying that stories are bad. I was raised on stories. ! My Mom read to me every night when I was a kid. Giving Tree, Where the Wild Things Are, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I loved those stories.
  13. 13. 
 I even love stories about stories. The Princess Bride, the greatest story about a story ever.
 And I get that there are ancient story archetypes that are fused deep in our DNA.
  14. 14. I understand that Star Wars is just the Epic of Gilgamesh with lightsabers and Star Cruisers. I totally buy Joseph Campbell, story archetypes the Hero’s journey and all of that. ! But here’s the thing. Stories aren’t the only way to do our job. They’re not the only way to make a connection or evoke a reaction. ! I want you all to do a little thought exercise with me.

  15. 15. I want you to take a second to remember something.
 
 I want you to really remember the last time you had a hot, hard, passionate, breath-stealing, body-rocking . . . kiss.
 
 
 Some of you thought I was going to drop another f-bomb.
 Really savor that memory, that kiss. What did it feel like? Taste like? Remember the adrenaline, your heart pounding, your brain firing with every synapse.
  16. 16. Now, open your eyes.
 
 Wow. I can tell that some of you have had some really great kisses. ! Now. Would you rather have the experience of that kiss? Or would you rather have someone else tell you a story about a fantastic kiss with that special someone you’re crazy about? ! You wouldn’t trade that experience for a story, right? And if you would, you weren’t doing it right.
  17. 17. EXPERIENCE > STORY Experience trumps story. ! We would all rather have the real thing, the real moment, that first-person, in-person experience over a story.
  18. 18. “... WHEN WE ACT, WE CREATE OUR OWN REALITY. AND WHILE YOU’RE STUDYING THAT REALITY...WE’LL ACT AGAIN, CREATING NEW REALITIES...AND YOU, ALL OF YOU, WILL BE LEFT TO STUDY WHAT WE DO.” KARL ROVE ACTION > STORY Now, when you were imagining kissing that special someone, did anyone imagine kissing this guy? ! No? Good. ! Now, I’m no fan of Karl Rove, but he was a pretty smart dude. And he’s famous for this quote. Do you know who he said that to? Journalists. Storytellers. ! Action trumps story. It precedes it. We write stories about people who take action. ! That’s why we say, actions speak louder than words. ! So, if experience and action trump storytelling, when we say that storytelling is the end-all/be-all of our work, we are limiting the scope of our imagination and our creative output.
  19. 19. Storytelling is a box that we put ourselves into. When we accept that as our highest calling, we take ourselves out of realm of action and experience and we limit ourselves to telling stories of the people who live in those realms, we take ourselves out of the most meaningful spaces and moments of the lives of people we’re trying to influence.
  20. 20. And when people put themselves in boxes, it’s not good.
  21. 21. STORY-DOING “TOP 5 RESTAURANT CAMPAIGN 2012” NATIONS RESTAURANT NEWS Here at Barkley, one of our most successful and lauded pieces of work in the last few years is NOT a story. ! Nations Restaurant News named it one of the Top 5 Restaurant campaigns of 2012. That’s a nice accolade for any agency to receive, right? Top 5 campaign from the national trade press? ! It was an app. It was a piece of functionality that let people know when they could get hot, fresh doughnuts. ! Was it a story? Was there a narrative? A protagonist? A beginning, middle and end? Dramatic conflict. ! No. It was a cool bit of utility that helped people get something they craved. ! Now some people, have called this kind of work “story-doing.” Which I think is about the most bullshit phrase ever invented. ! The queen is not amused at your abuse of her language. ! Story-doing is just a really awkward attempt to force fit action and experience into this frame of storytelling. Stop it. Think bigger.
  22. 22. ART + COPY Look, advertising’s obsession with story goes back a long way. ! If you think about the Mad Men era. The core of an agency’s creative group were pairs of “Ad Men.” You had a copy guy and an art guy. That was the essence of the creative offering.
  23. 23. ART + COPY + CODE And it stayed that way for a LONG time. Several decades, until we entered the digital era in the 90s. And smart agencies and marketers began to realize that interactivity, digital and data were new creative domains. And we started to hear people talk about art, copy and code as creative pillars. ! But we’re now moving beyond the digital era. Digital is no longer meaningful. Everything is digital. Anything can be interactive. We’re leaving the distinction between offline and online behind us, and we’re moving into a no-line world.
  24. 24. ART + COPY + CODE + SOLDER And in this world, we have a new creative equation - Art, copy, code and solder. ! It’s about using technology as a creative element in our work, to bring the digital and physical worlds together. To do more than tell stories, to create experiences, utility, applications and platforms that bring consumers and brands closer together. ! What do I mean by that. Here are a few examples.
  25. 25. 2013 GRAVITY AWARD In Peru, Draftfcb created a billboard for a technical college. The billboard not only advertises the college, it condenses water out of the air to provide drinking water to the people who live below it. They not only told a story about the skills the college could teach, they demonstrated those skills, and they did it in a way that improved people’s lives. ! It won the inaugural gravity award from Adweek for invention in advertising.
 
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35yeVwigQcc
 !
  26. 26. 2013 CANNES LION The Barbarian Group won the very first Cannes innovation lion for producing Cinder. It’s not an ad or a website or even a brand experience, it’s software that allows visual creatives to produce amazing, interactive visualizations. They open sourced it and made it available to the world.
 
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XH5uQ7JWQY !
  27. 27. SapientNitro developed MyLook for Lens Crafters. It’s not a story or an ad, it’s an in-store application with a ton of technology that makes the process of shopping for frames much better. 
 
 I love that it’s based on a human problem, and I love the attention to technical detail—nine cameras to capture multiple angles at multiple heights. A really thorough exploration of the experience they’re delivering.
 
 http://www.re-hatch.org/work_view.php?haid=852&searchParams=SapientNitro !
  28. 28. 
 And this. I imagine most of you know that RGA developed Nike’s fuel band. This too. Not a story. It’s a product and platform that has fundamentally changed the way that consumers experience the brand.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyXqqsDcGDg
  29. 29. KBS’ Spies and Assassins team created this augmented reality window for BMW. It shows a vision of the future, and it conveys a sense of amazement to people who experience it.
 
 And this image really captures what I’m talking about. It’s the delight and amazement that a highly creative application of technology can produce. Storytelling isn’t the only way to evoke an emotional response.
 
 I talked to one of the people at Spies and Assasins who was involved in this project. He told me that it cost on the order of a million dollars to produce. There’s no way to justify the expenditure, even for a brand like BMW, just based on the people who saw it for the few days it was live. But, when you measure the viral spread of the as people began to share the experience with their friends and audiences, they got to a place where the metrics blew away a media buy. ! http://www.isaacawards.com/winners/2013/digital/entry.cfm? entryid=601300156&award=50&from=1&to=500&order=0&direction=1
  30. 30. EXPERIENCE STORY And here, it turns out, is the twist in the tale. Because there is a synergistic relationship between experience and story. Story complements experience and amplifies its reach. And it can drive others back to seek out or relive that experience. 

  31. 31. CREATIVE TECH In order to compete successfully in this post-digital world, agencies have to become better at fusing creative and tech, so there are no lines between the two. So that technology isn’t a means to deliver the message, it is an intrinsic component of the idea and experience itself.
  32. 32. DIGITAL PHYSICAL We need to become adept at merging the physical and digital together in interesting, impactful ways.
  33. 33. IDEA REALITY And we need to get better at taking these ideas and turning them into reality. At Barkley, we’ve developed a rapid prototyping process. We don’t merely present storyboards and concepts, we present functional prototypes. ! It’s about making the possible tangible.
  34. 34. LET’S MAKE: ADS STORIES EXPERIENCES SERVICES PRODUCTS COMPANIES So here’s my exhortation to my partners at Barkley and to the broader advertising community. 
 
 As we move forward into the post-digital age, let’s make ads and stories, sure, but let’s not stop there. Let’s not limit ourselves. Please, let’s let ourselves out of the friggin’ story box. Let’s make experiences, applications, products and maybe even companies. !
  35. 35. LET’S BE THE PEOPLE THEY TELL STORIES ABOUT. And if we do that, we won’t be just another bunch of ad people talking about telling stories, ! We’ll be the ones they tell stories about. ! And if not . . .

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