I hate ‘Storytellers’ but I love stories

One of the latest buzzwords in advertising is ‘storytelling’. As in “I’m not a copywriter, I’m a storyteller. My role is to tell compelling stories about brands that engage the target demographic in meaningful conversations across media agnostic channels.” Or somesuch buzzword-driven bollocks. I’ve even seen job titles such as ‘Chief Storyteller’, ‘Brand Storytelling Lead’ and ‘Head of Storytelling Engagement, Millennial Advertainment Curation and Snackable Content Ideation’ (OK, I made that last one up but it can’t be far off). There’s even a ‘post-advertising agency’ called Story!

Advertising’s constant race to the next lingo bingo catchphrase is tedious and self-defeating. No matter what technology, innovation and new channels we’re using in our work, for it to resonate and be remembered it needs to be built on what many years ago Bill Bernbach called “simple, timeless human truths”. If it’s not, we can create ‘content marketing driven by Big Data and real-time analytics’ until the cows come home and it won’t mean jack.

However, while I’m terminally buzzword-averse, I do believe that stories have an inherent power which, when corralled in the right way, with “simple, timeless human truths” at their core, make our our ideas utterly compelling. As Robert McKee says in the legendary screenwriting bible Story, “Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.”

Great advertising has been telling insightful stories since the 60s, from VW ‘Snowplough’ to Guinness ‘Surfer’ to Simon The Ogre (above, from a few years ago) to ‘Sound of Honda – Ayrton Senna 1989’ last year. Long may that continue. I just don’t think we need more marketing catchphrases and new job titles to keep telling those stories.


About antmelder
Executive Creative Director at Host/Havas Sydney; passionate vegetarian; lover of books, boxing and Bruce Springsteen.

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