Story Time – By @thomas_ludo
By Ludo Thomas
History is what but a series of stories; it’s a collection of tales that seemingly transcend time, they act as bridges from generation to generation giving us an insight into the past and therefore the ability to sculpt the future. Blimey that’s quite deep. But, in all honesty I love a good story and I believe the ability to tell a story is one of the most precious things we as humans are able to do. This is because stories can capture the minds of those who listen and latch onto the deeper emotions they hold. If used correctly they can become the most powerful ways to communicate messages, we only have to look back through history to see this is true, storytelling is capable of motivating people on both wonderfully good and utterly evil grounds, for Martin Luther King was a brilliant story teller but so to was Adolf Hitler.
This being so, no one really knows exactly when storytelling came about, it’s something time has dissolved, but when I think about it, I like to imagine a dark cave, primitive hunters and a flickering fire, the leader — the storyteller, has captivated his small tribe by reliving the barbarous hunt they had that day; the way he came face to face with four saber-toothed cats, six wild raccoons and a Mongolian squirrel, and with his bare hands, managed to wrestle each one to the death and walk out alive with their skins. Something like that.
What’s wonderful though, is that everyone has the ability to tell stories, granted some are better than others, but even so, story is a natural part of human makeup and is rooted in the very early part of human existence. Before humans were able to write, storytelling was a primary way of communicating. People were, and still are, inherently drawn to stories because as social creatures we rely on others in order to survive and be happy.
So why bring story into advertising? It’s a fact that the best ideas are sticky ones and a way to ensure that an idea gets remembered is to surround it with a big, emotional, (believable) story. All the best campaigns have them. To achieve this we’ve been told to relax when thinking, and to consistently search for the narrative, to write and rewrite scripts and to plug the holes using story in order to create a water-tight campaign. We need to always remember that we are trying to make our audience laugh, cry or think, or to put collectively, make them feel, if we can do this then we’re on the right tracks.
So the reasons why are obvious, but sometimes I sit there and think how on earth do I add story to my work and additionally am I just doing it for the sake of it? Well to answer this, yesterday I was lucky enough to chat to Beto Fernandez, the Group Creative Director at BBH London. For those who don’t know, a few years ago, Beto was one of the ECD’s behind the Dove campaign ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ which was one of the reasons Ogilvy Brazil won agency of the year at the 2013 Cannes Lions, so naturally I was terrified. But what he told me cleared up my questions, he said, as long as you get a concrete, interesting angle or insight, typically something intriguing that your audience previously didn’t know, then story happens quite naturally and you are able to build more and more story around your idea as you progress. Beto used his insight for ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ as an example, when asking women about beauty, most woman he asked were able to find 50 or so compliments regarding the appearance of their friends and only a few for themselves, which gave birth to the insights that woman are hyper critical about self image, and other people see you very differently to how you see yourself. These truths were then used as the foundation for the entire campaign which layer and layer of story was then added, to create one of the most emotional, heartfelt campaigns of recent times.
So to recap, story is incredibly important, it’s immensely powerful, everyone is able to add story and by doing so your ideas will only be stronger so long as the story comes from an insightful, compelling, truth. That’s my aim for my future campaigns.