Pecha Kucha @ Vision Bristol 2011


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A short opinion piece I delivered at the Pecha Kucha session at the Vision conference.

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Pecha Kucha @ Vision Bristol 2011

  1. 1. 1 <ul><li>Hello </li></ul><ul><li>Busy day, dark, and nearly bedtime </li></ul><ul><li>How about a story to help you unwind and relax. </li></ul><ul><li>Because that’s very now isn’t it? To talk about brand narrative, story arc and the like. </li></ul><ul><li>Why should this be? </li></ul>
  2. 2. 2 <ul><li>Once upon a time we were constrained </li></ul><ul><li>By 30 seconds on TV </li></ul><ul><li>Or the 48 sheets of a poster. </li></ul><ul><li>But now, there’s so much of the internet. We must fill it up. How do we fill it up? </li></ul><ul><li>As so often, the removal of constraints on creative people does not help. </li></ul><ul><li>The stories are getting worse </li></ul><ul><li>Their impact is diminished. </li></ul>
  3. 3. 3 <ul><li>But, perhaps because of the nature of the media, its’ ability to measure the effect rather than the effectiveness of everything has led us to talk of… </li></ul><ul><li>Content and engagement </li></ul><ul><li>Which are horrid words, with no joy or art in them. </li></ul><ul><li>So what makes a good story? </li></ul>
  4. 4. 4 <ul><li>You need a hero. You don’t have to like them, but you do have to care what happens to them. </li></ul><ul><li>Heroes are not perfect - they have flaws. </li></ul><ul><li>A brand can be flawed too. Maybe it stubbornly only does one thing, which limits NPD, but makes consumers love it all the more. </li></ul><ul><li>Celebrate these flaws - don’t remove them. </li></ul>
  5. 5. 5 <ul><li>Now what do you do with your hero? Well, Kurt Vonnegut put it like this: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.” </li></ul><ul><li>This is the classic advertising torture test. </li></ul><ul><li>Show the brand under duress </li></ul>
  6. 6. 6 <ul><li>From stubborn stains to ground in grime, brands have always been good at putting themselves in difficult circumstances to show how they perform. </li></ul><ul><li>Ok, so it’s not Hamlet having his Father murdered and his Uncle marrying his Mother. </li></ul><ul><li>But it is the same structure. </li></ul><ul><li>You show what you’re made of when faced with Mr Kipling’s triumph or disaster </li></ul>
  7. 7. 7 <ul><li>More about heroes and characters. They must ‘quest’ they must want something. </li></ul><ul><li>For brands it must be more than you simply to buy them. A good example of this would be Ikea and their ‘chuck out your chintz’ campaign from a few years ago. </li></ul><ul><li>Aligned to more than just a profit motive, but also to Ingvar Kamprad’s original vision for Ikea which was ‘to create a better life for the many’. </li></ul><ul><li>Called on us to stop Tudorbethaning and chintzing and become modern. </li></ul>
  8. 8. 8 <ul><li>So it was also a test of us, the consumer, or to go back to storytelling – the reader. </li></ul><ul><li>It challenged us, through the prism of our hero’s quest and desire, to question our own choices and perhaps to change. </li></ul><ul><li>This is what art does. What a good story does. It tests us. </li></ul><ul><li>It challenges, forces us to reconsider our beliefs or our perception of things. </li></ul>
  9. 9. 9 <ul><li>A hard nut for marketing to crack in stories. </li></ul><ul><li>To move. To affect. To prompt action and hardest of all, change. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s especially hard because we are, for the most part, trying to get people to do casual everyday things. </li></ul><ul><li>All of which leads me back to where we started, in looking at the way brands are behaving in new media, at the stories they are crafting and communicating… </li></ul>
  10. 10. 10 <ul><li>Brands are opting for history. </li></ul><ul><li>History is written by the victors, or at least the brand owners. </li></ul><ul><li>Provenance can be scripted. </li></ul><ul><li>On the web, no-one can alter your ‘About Us’ page </li></ul><ul><li>What do you think of…? </li></ul>
  11. 11. 11 <ul><li>Why is this so wrong? It’s because it’s tell, tell, tell tales. </li></ul><ul><li>It breaks one of the fundamental rules of creative writing – which is SHOW, don’t tell. </li></ul><ul><li>Tell. At 40, Peter was bald,and still nervous about public speaking. </li></ul><ul><li>Show. “Peter rubbed a hand across his shaven head, the bristle of his departed hair distracting him momentarily from the tight knot binding his stomach. He was losing his place, and losing his audience…” </li></ul>
  12. 12. 12 <ul><li>It’s no surprise really </li></ul><ul><li>We don’t take care, consider, and craft anecdotes for each other anymore. </li></ul><ul><li>We are simply in transmit mode, constantly recounting endless stories verbatim to each other as they unfolded. </li></ul>
  13. 13. 13 <ul><li>Brands are therefore simply mimicking the behaviour of their consumers. </li></ul><ul><li>We’ve become all tell, and no show. </li></ul><ul><li>Which is why, when a brand uses a bit of rather wonderful old fashioned ‘show’ in their story, we are all awed and agog. </li></ul><ul><li>The brand I’m talking about is John Lewis, and in particular their Christmas TV ad. </li></ul>
  14. 14. 14 <ul><li>One of their major competitors, M&S, may have co-opted the show contestants to appear in their TV ad, but it’s John Lewis that has the X Factor. </li></ul><ul><li>Why? Because it understands, like the TV show itself, that the provenance of the artists is merely context. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s what, in the movie business, they call ‘exposition’, </li></ul><ul><li>Background information. Interesting, but not central. </li></ul>
  15. 15. 15 <ul><li>So it can be very dull. In fact, Humphrey Bogart memorably said </li></ul><ul><li>“ Whenever I have to deliver exposition, I hope they put two camels behind me fucking so the audience'll have something interesting to look at ” </li></ul><ul><li>X Factor understands that it’s the back story you tell, but it’s the show you sell. </li></ul>
  16. 16. 16 <ul><li>We’re invited to vote on the artists performance. To judge them on the show they put on,and their ability to move us, to act, even to buy. </li></ul><ul><li>The ‘Live Show’ is storytelling with a purpose. </li></ul><ul><li>Which is what, on a commercial level, is what advertising and marketing remains. </li></ul>
  17. 17. 17 <ul><li>The John Lewis ad doesn’t feature any kettles, jumpers, bedspreads, or most importantly, prices. </li></ul><ul><li>It doesn’t tell me anything. It shows me a sentimental, schmaltzy, but powerful evocation of the commercial meaning of Christmas. </li></ul><ul><li>Why has the potent storytelling of the John Lewis ad become so rare? Why have we stopped showing, and simply resorted to telling? Perhaps because it’s harder. </li></ul>
  18. 18. 18 <ul><li>Putting on a show. Entertaining and truly engaging </li></ul><ul><li>Is harder than just telling somebody some facts. </li></ul><ul><li>Show a brand in conflict or triumphing in adversity is a more difficult task than simply telling the consumer that it washes whiter. </li></ul><ul><li>But it’s worth doing. Because this is the best use of your creativity, of your art, in a story. </li></ul>
  19. 19. 19 <ul><li>For anyone can tell a story, but show, design, illustrate, photograph, shoot, basically CREATE, and </li></ul><ul><li>If you capture the point, the theme, the feeling that you want to convey </li></ul><ul><li>You’re far more likely to get people to take it on at a deep, emotional level. </li></ul>
  20. 20. 20 <ul><li>And if we can all do that this Christmas, then we, and the brands we work on can all live happily ever after. </li></ul>