Storytelling was a hot topic at Social Media Influence 2011- but this is not the neat finely honed story-telling as we know it. You know what I mean- one author carefully crafting a tale with a beginning a middle and an end.
No, this is much more like improvised comedy – it can start anywhere and you don’t know quite where it will end up. Steve Frost or Paul Merton are masters of this art- a topic is mentioned (an animal, a person, an historical figure, a sound, a mood) and off its goes passing in a chain from one to another taking unpredictable twists and turns, until it runs out of steam.
This insight (from Andy Whitlock of Poke) points up both the joy and weakness of this freeform multi- authored form of storytelling.
It can be fresh and take unpredictable, surprising directions but it can also end up being (well) a bit tedious and time consuming- an activity for those with plenty of time on their hands. There is only so much “co-creation” that the average person can find the time for.
No surprise then that the counter-trend is also true- we still love traditional advertising storytelling in social media. I mean by this those beautifully crafted little dramas in 30 or 40 or 60 or even 90 seconds featuring characters- human, animal and plasticine- that made British advertising the most famous in the world in the 1980s and 1990s.
Its is unfashionable to say so but these are still very powerful -no wonder that John Lewis and VW have been so successful with them in the past 12 months. They could have been made 15 or 20 years ago.
Andy Whitlock also makes the point that a big part of the great success of the Old Spice campaign is not just the clever use of twitter to improvise the campaign direction by talking back to tweets but also the fact that each ad uses traditional advertising craft skills- pitch perfect comedy scripts, casting and direction.