Reinventing Storytelling: Julian Rosefeldt

Lots of agencies like to assert that they are storytellers, but who really cares? People have told stories since the dawn of time; what’s interesting today is how we can tell them. How does the explosion of mobile video impact narrative and production? How will we integrate non-linear narratives into AR and VR experiences? How do the radical contextual changes of the last ten years affect the way our audiences want to receive stories?

And perhaps most importantly, how do we keep them interested amidst the constant bombardments of distraction.

Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 1.46.10 PMHere’s one artist’s attempt at reinventing the medium. German artist and filmmaker Julian Rosefeldt creates elaborate video installations that use space and story in fascinating ways (the post-modern, dada-ist crane shot on his home page alone is worth the click). Now through January 8th, his latest installation “Manifesto” is open at the Armory Park Avenue in New York. Cate Blanchett creates thirteen different characters, each reading a statement from a historical angry young artist, all presented simultaneously on massive screens. As the artist says, “The resulting polyphonic plea for aesthetic change boldly recaptures the defiant spirit of its source material for a contemporary audience.”

I couldn’t find any really great video on it, but here is the Armory’s description, here’s an article written about its Australian run, and here’s a nice article from Vogue. Ideally, one of us will get to New York, experience it firsthand, and share it out if they find it worthwhile.

Stories are everywhere. Finding ways to continually innovate the story experience is something we should all strive to accomplish.


Happy New Decade! Here’s One Prediction for Advertising in The Teens…

Not a list or a look back of any kind; just one prediction regarding all this industry convergence and confusion about how the advertising business we knew will evolve in the decade ahead…

#1.  The Days of Strategy Are Over.

The Age of Stories Is Upon Us.


That’s not a quote from The Lord of the Rings; that’s a truth that’s become increasingly obvious as we’ve dealt with seismic changes within both our industry and the culture as a whole.  We live in times when great masses of people can organize without organizations (good point Clay Shirky).  We live in times when recommendation drives sales more than any other factor (good business plan Zocalo Group).  We live in times when the way people can experience a brand–has never been more diverse (good luck with integration there, Bub).

Today’s reality renders the notion of a centralized advertising ‘strategy’ quaint.  The conceit that any advertiser controls their message is both dated and dangerous.  Strategies assume centralized authority which no longer exists in an empowered-public forum.  Strategies come from people with a vested interest, but these days, those people are only a part of the in-market dialogue.  Today, consumers have loud voices: socially-networked, extraordinarily powerful and digitally-amplified via Web 2.0 voices.  And their voices will be heard

All of which means that if we want to learn, we will have to unlearn–it’s not about just what we advocate, it’s about what consumers accept.  To lead we will also have to listen–not just to clients but to consumers whose voices are stronger than ever.

We will have to put aside the older ways and accept that to move forward, we will have to embrace one of the most primal and fundamental assets of our humanity: storytelling.  We will not only need to tell stories on our brands’ behalf in the future, we also must shape those stories, enhance those stories, make them more pertinent, more relevant, and more impactful to the people we want to buy our brands.  Sparking stories, guiding stories, monitoring and brightening stories–that will define the advertising business in the coming decade.

And so that will become our daily work.  Identifying the story.  Shaping the story.  Refining the story.  And most of all, spreading the story in a way that others pick up our narrative and spread it themselves.

We are no longer in the advertising business.  We are now in the oldest profession known to man: no, not that–the storytelling business. And it just may be the most antediluvian business at work today–telling stories for the entertainment and edification of others.  But at least it’s honest work.

Come to think of it, the years ahead should be a really good time.  A Happy Decade Ahead to All!

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

The Fungible Nature of Story or Jane Eyre Was One Funny Ten Year Old–Who Knew?

So I’m plowing through McKee and Campbell and all sorts of other thinkers, delving into the principles of story narrative with a mind to reinvent the working notion of advertising campaigns for our agency.  By focusing on the basic foundations of story, perhaps we can more easily reorient both our work and ourselves away from a push-driven, objectives-based, communications-controlling POV toward a more two-way, push-pull, communications sharing perspective.  Anyway, I’m reading a lot lately…

A Pre-Victorian Lisa Simpson If You Will

A Pre-Victorian Lisa Simpson If You Will

At the same time, my wife has been reading two chapters of Charlotte Bronte’s classic gothic novel Jane Eyre every night to our (now five days away from) nine year old. Despite some digressions to explain the meaning of archaic terms like ‘ligature,’ ‘wretched,’ and my personal favorite–‘bilious’–it’s been one of the nicest surprises in months.  I look forward to hearing the next installment each night; somehow in the intervening thirty or so years since last I spent any time with young Jane, she grew to be funny and spunky and insightful in a way I never recognized as an eighth grader.

It’s funny how a great story might not speak to you–at least not right away–and yet it inevitably finds its audience.  Which gives me real hope that if we make great brand stories and get them out to people who appreciate them, those people will be inspired to do a lot of the storytelling for us, widening the circle, and finding an engaged, participatory audience.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79