23 March 2013

Storytelling Seminar at AdWeekEurope

What a week!
I was lucky enough to be sponsored to attend Advertising Week Europe and rub shoulders with huge agencies and amazing creatives.

I attended several conferences which I'll blog about here.
This one was my favourite, the title was 'ITV presents Chapter and Purse turning stories into sales'
Wow - what a title. Honestly my mind said 'boring but perhaps ok,' there wasn't much else going on so I decided to attend with my trusty friend Hanna the Marketing Whiz (yes thats her real title - to me at least!) at DHP Studios.

It was a great panel discussions lead by Tom Bradby who just the day before had been reporting on the budget cuts in parliment - so he was quite happy to be talking storytelling instead.
The panel consisted of (from the right):
Kate Brooke (screenwriter Mr Selfridge), Kieran Roberts (ITV Creative Director and Exec Producer of Coronation St), Warwick Cairns (Author), Enyi Nwosu (MD of M&C Saatchi) and Tom Bradby (political editor ITV News)
Please be aware these views are my own and based on my notes, I'm biased and listened to the stuff I found interesting!

So we started off with a great point from Warwick Cairns that all societies tell stories even if they haven't invented the wheel. I believe he was quoting someone, not sure who.
To this Kate added that 'We see the world through stories'. Totally agree on this point, which obviously is where the marketeers come in and say that brand stories is what they get paid the big bucks for!

Tom then asked, Why do people like stories?
My favourite answer was from Kate who said: Entertainment, myth, truth
Interestingly enough they all agreed that truth played a fundamental part of any story, whether it be advertising, a made up tv show, a novel or a screenplay. The truths of our lives is what calls to us.
I believe this is what Antonin Artaud talked about in his essay Theatre of Cruelty. From my vague student years at university I remember a theory he proposed about once the truth is seen on stage it lights up a beacon inside the actor, which in turn lights up the audience so you have this wonderful picture of a single light inside a being, which in turn makes other lights come on like a wave through the crowd.

Warwick - (who was quite verbose) then talked about the writers/authors test of a concept:
1 Do I believe it
2 Do I care and 
3 will I go on caring?
Very good advice for budding screenwriters. 
In fact each week I'm getting script submissions from writers, some who do not seem to care about their characters, and some highly unbelieveable. They also do not seem to care who they are submitting their work to, what the company has previously produced and whether their script is right for that company. (This is a whole other rant for another day - needless to say please do not submit your kitchen sink comedy to my company. Unless it is sci fi based.)

Talking about screenplays, Kieran of Corrie St, believes character should come first in a story- but it needs a hook.
Oh I cannot agree more, too often the scripts might have one interesting character but no hook whatsoever. Something that defines this story from others. 
Enyi from M&C Saatchi who is well practised at creating a story you will engage in, in a very very short amount of time (30 sec spot on tv) believes that each story needs:
Compelling insight, 
and a fact about the brand 
He is currently hooked on the Gatorade replay campaign which has been developed into a series and is going to be a feature film.
He also mentioned their work on Coke Zero campaign Street Striker. They realised the brand ambassador for Coke Zero, Wayne Rooney, was not pin up material. So instead of putting him on a poster the needed to come up with a ad campaign that would promote him and Coke Zero to 16-25 year old boys. Using truth, insight and brand values, they created a tv show that reflected Rooney's roots, finding young street footballers around the UK by Rooney, who were then put to their test at trails and get to perform in front of Rooney. He himself was discovered as a street footballer so this had truth in it, he was also passionate about this and it aligned with the Coke Zero brand values of creating opportunities for young people. In short it was a hit show with Sky buying the series for 5 years.

An interesting side note to this was that unlike a book, commercial or feature film tv shows can  respond immediately to audience feedback

Recently Enyi tells us the 30 sec spot is so short, the trend in advertising is to have intrigue rather than straight out there in your face type advertising.
He mentions all the big brands tell stories and these stories are what we remember about them.
Tiger Woods deal with Nike was not affected by his infidelity because the brand had their own story that people remembered.
They talked about the John Lewis Xmas ad
and how it has become a bit of an institution each year!

There is a real skill in creating a 30 sec ad/story which not only that, has to stand multiple viewings, wheras television shows are only aired once

However as Kate pointed out, ads work by condensing everything into 30secs. The skill of telling a story in a very short time, probably why a good short film is hard to find.

Kate quoted this wonderful quote from Ernest Hemingway. 
The saddest story in least amount of words "For sale, baby shoes, never worn"

Enyi reminded us that Brands can tell stories about what they believe in, but they cannot tell stories about their products
I then asked Kieran about branded content and how that is going for ITV and Coronation street in general. He mentioned they have a deal with
National Bank for ATM's, and brand associations are on the rise in television programmes. But he assured everyone that brand associations should
 not and would not get in the way of the programme or change the programme. Phew and there I was worried Corrie st might...get...worse?

It was a brilliant panel, chaired wonderfully and I really enjoyed it. Hope you gained something from reading my notes and perhaps some insight into
the similarities of writing whether it be for screen, books, commercials or any other format.
Happy writing.