A leading creative has offered some sage advice to fellow creatives from online advertising agencies: whether you’re a copywriter on an art director, if you want to truly appeal to today’s hyper-connected, social consumer, drop branded content and learn to love true storytelling instead.
Minds, hearts and stories
Jon Hamm, Chief Creative and Innovation Officer at the global marketing firm Momentum Worldwide, believes the distinction between the two is pivotal. In a recent article for Adweek, he describes it like this:
“Stories rely on the intended audience to develop their own imagery and detail to complete and, most importantly, to co-create, whereas content does not. Content is primarily created in the internal mind of the content originator, with no heed to the mind or to the context of the audience.”
Think about it, all you imaginative art directors and copywriters: as Hamm argues, the work of the greatest storytellers is highly evocative, creating unique, individual experiences within the mind of the audience. And as humans are the only animals for whom storytelling is an inherent feature of life – the chief means by which the accumulated values, beliefs and wisdom of previous generations is transmitted – it’s a key means of deeply involving people. As Hamm puts it, audiences have never asked for content; they want stories instead.
Evoke the consumer’s creativity
Drawing on the work of the German literary theorist Wolfgang Iser, Hamm maintains that art directors and copywriters would do well to view readers as active agents imparting a ‘real existence’ to their work and imbuing it with their own interpretations. No tale, Iser argued, can ever be told in its entirety, and Hamm believes this nugget of wisdom has direct relevance to advertising: don’t try and tell a story in its entirety, have faith in the creativity of those who read it instead. That’s the way to “truly resonate emotionally with our audience,” he says.
We now live in a world where products aren’t the only thing an audience considers; a brand’s values and the feelings they elicit are equally important, and according to Hamm, this gives marketers a powerful opportunity to unite an idea with an emotion when creating an ad. And for him, indisputably, the best way to do that is through storytelling.
“Content is dead. Long live storytelling.”