Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Storytelling is Joke Telling: Why it Matters in Advertising

When you are in the industry that I am in, it is all about telling a story. That's not true actually, it should be about storytelling. What it becomes all too often is terrible regurgitations of creative briefs. This results in near plagiarized ideas of other successful advertising and campaigns and commercials designed to shock or simply grab attention. Now let's look at one of the most successful storytellers.

Andrew Stanton is a filmmaker at Pixar/Disney, and is responsible for some of the most iconic movies of the last 25 years. Finding Nemo, Toy Story and Wall-E, just to name a few. Simply put, the guy knows how to tell a damn compelling story. The advertising industry could learn a lot from him. Here are a few of my thoughts from his great TED Talk.  
  • "Storytelling is joke telling." Using humor is indeed a great device in advertising, but it has to lead to a bigger pay off. Humor is not the reward, it is the device that leads the customer to the reward.  
  • "We all want affirmations." We want shared experiences. being part of a larger community is a must for emotional connection.   
  • "The greatest story commandment is: Make me care." To care about your brand they have to understand your brand. To understand your brand you need to relate it to who they are and what they stand for. Confirming some truth that reinforces who we are. Mr. Stanton uses a great quote, "There isn't anyone you couldn't learn to love once you've heard their story." -Mr. Rogers. This is it in a nutshell. 
  • Humans are born problem solvers. The audience wants to "work for their meal." They just don't want to know it. Don't craft your story so simply were it is obvious. Leave a few gaps and let people fill them in. Wall-E is a very pure example of storytelling where you have to work. No dialogue will do that to a movie. However, with beautiful flow, design, sound and music, we are able to complete the story. In my estimation we complete the story better than if there had been dialogue.  
  • Be true to yourself, your story and your brand. Without truthful storytelling all the rest is just window dressing.   

Now let Mr. Stanton weave a story for you...

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