This isn’t about storytelling in advertising. I hate the lazy, self-regarding industry rhetoric about storytelling. I fucking hate all that waffle about storytellers and their caves and campfires, the invocation of unnamed ‘ancient storytellers’, and being told that to arouse emotions and change behaviours advertising 'must' tell stories. A gorilla limbers up and starts playing drums. Coloured balls roll down a hill. A man tells us we could smell like him. Gerbils are shot out of a cannon. A fat kid runs down an empty road. A puppy steals a toilet roll. A bronzed man walks down a beach in Speedos. Martians laugh at humans. A man hurtles through the air in a wing suit. Things get distorted when seen through a bottle. A meerkat talks to camera. Young people gather on a hill and sing. Sofas, kitchens, and carpets are offered at low, low prices. An offer must end. If you think that any of this is a story, you need to think, as Andy Nairn has suggested, very long and very hard about the basic ingredients of a good yarn, before telling the world that we spin them for a living. No, this isn’t about fucking storytelling in advertising. It’s about something much more important.
At the end of the day, strategy is the art of getting other people to do something.
In the pursuit of that, narrative (call it ‘storytelling’ if you really must) is the strategist’s tool.
Strategy is narrative.
Strategy explains the world, projecting forwards and imagining an interconnected sequence of events.
It imagines a world in which there is agency, causality, and consequence.
And in doing so strategy imagines a different future.
Strategy then, is an imaginative act.
And narrative is how it thinks, expresses itself, and brings others along.
Which is where words come in.
Whether expressed as conversation, brief, or presentation, strategy is meaningless and powerless without words.
If you can’t put your strategy into words others cannot follow.