Storytelling and Context Pt. 3 — The Future

This is Part 3 of a talk given at D&AD Festival on 22 May 2019. Visit here for part one and here for part two.

The future

So, how does this combine to point the way towards creating great campaigns in 2019?

One way, given the stratified nature of media, and people jumping between social platforms, streaming platforms, email, laptops, events and print is running integrated or transmedia campaigns.

These are stories that jump between our devices, delivering snippets of story adapted to the context of each device, whilst retaining their cultural coherency. Needless to say it’s hard to pull off.

Awaken The Phantom for Nike drove users on a cross channel treasure hunt and tied it in with an online film and real world events.

This follows the storytelling rules — getting people intrigued, gaining their attention. Creating empathy and releasing dopamine by unlocking personalised content. And of cause rewarding them with intimate brand experiences. All the while each asset takes into account the precise environment, and time that the media will be engaged with. It creates engagements with the right people, and it taps into a football culture.

So the campaigns that are really reaching people in this online multi-channel context, must treat media as a creative discipline, not a functional one.

When it comes to pure storytelling, I would highlight The Purse for Guinness by AMVBBDO. It’s a story that grips you from the outset, appeals to the target market in a specific context (during the 6 Nations), uses motifs and references to gain empathy, and positions Guinness as a core protagonist in the story. And good god it sends shivers down your spine every time you watch it.

Or another way to do it is to partner with media to create great environments that work in tandem with your campaign. This means creating branded content environments, that bring users in, tell them engaging, crafted stories that deliver a brand pay off.

Showtime worked with the New York Times to create an interactive, animated article that told a compelling story, was beautifully crafted, and felt entirely natural. Here the environment was built for the creative specifically, and it’s all the more powerful for it.

Whether single or multi-channel, the real takeaway is to tell great stories, to the right people, and put them in the right place.

Black Pencil Winners

2018’s three D&AD Black Pencil winners, have been judged the best three campaigns of the year. Looking just at them we can see that campaigns that rise above the rest not only consider context, but place it at their core.

The Palau Pledge used innovative media to transmit its message. Passengers flying to Palau had to watch their campaign video on the flight, the video talked about leaving Palau pristine for your children, really pulling those empathy strings.

Tourists then had to sign the pledge in their passport before entering the country. So the media environments were chosen for their power. The engagement — a signature in your passport — couldn’t be more personal.

The payoff came by having a pristine country to visit, and knowing you’ve actively committed to keeping it that way.

The It’s A Tide Ad campaign, was designed around the Superbowl. It highjacked that media environment around it, using the tropes of beer or car ads to draw us in, and make us question whether all ads were now Tide ads. It actually colonized the context around it.

And the Fearless Girl installation, relied on the context of this statue placed in Wall St, the symbolic heart of finance, facing the Bull: re-contextualising that as a masculine symbol of power, and discrediting it as a result. By becoming a must-see attraction, it drove engagements from women taking photos with it, increasing its credibility, and aimed to change a culture of male-led businesses.

Each of these campaigns is a story, drawing you in with a problem, gaining your attention by subverting a medium, and asking you to become part of the story, interpolating you, then delivering a payoff which makes you look at the world differently, and through the lens of a brand or campaign.

So the strongest stories not only take into account their environment, but they colonise and re-contextualize them. They make engagement user-led, and personal. And they take the elements of our culture we all understand, and change them.

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