14 April 2012

The Storytelling Deficit

For the first time in generations, Advertising is moving away from storytelling.  And it's hurting as result.

Storytelling isn't something we merely like to do.  We're wired for it.  As much today as in the days of the earliest known cave paintings.

Yet it wasn't until 1926 that Advertisers twigged on.  That year John Caples wrote this famous ad- one of the first to use storytelling as a sales device:

By the mid 20th Century, advertising had established a highly effective tradition of ad-storytelling, in print and broadcast.  Storytelling is why 'slice of life' TV ads thrive today.  However mind-numbingly stupid they are, however far they condescend to a perceived idiot-audience, (and in this case, in spite of their breathtaking misogyny) their stories, their characters make a visceral impression beyond the conscious mind's ability to block them out.

Today, all that has changed.  Thousands of new media compete for your attention.  Ads are shorter, pithier, and ubiquitous: each with less time, and increasingly buried in a blizzard of daily ad clutter.

Storytelling is disappearing.  Characters and vignettes- clever or otherwise- are disappearing: making way for advertising drive-by's.  Quick, staccato, single-use images and impressions built to stand alone.  Including "blinks"-  one-second broadcast ads:

Now we're in the era of Social Media- most about a decade old, and their language still to be written.  Texting is just the first shot.  A language that turns what I've just written into:

Storytelling is going to make a comeback- needs to make a comeback.  Not to satisfy a nostalgic baby boomer indulgence, but because it's part of our wiring.  Stories are how we're made to communicate.

Each time we create a new medium it takes decades to define it- to create a language that plays to its strengths.  In that sense, Social Media are still in their cavity-prone years.  The language is only now being refined.

That story is only now being written.

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