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Digital CMO/ Branding & Communications

Storytelling—Not Digital—Is Transforming The Creative Industry


by Bertil Snel
Partner Marketing
Adobe Systems

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Article Highlights:

  • The creative industry is changing in ways that disrupt agency business models.
  • Marketers now realize they need to tell consumers appealing stories.
  • Consumer-centered storytelling reverses the current organizational model.

The creative industry is changing in ways that disrupt agency business models, from the biggest ad houses and public-relations firms to boutique creative shops.

But as long as the industry splits its thinking and services into “traditional vs. digital” lines, it will miss the real transformation—and a historic opportunity.

The transformation is from one-way messaging to genuinely interactive storytelling. For 10 years now, consumers have been connecting on Web sites and social platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumbler, to share experiences, affinities, and complaints. Brands saw that their audiences had changed from passive consumers of messages to participants in a much more dynamic conversation.

To re-engage them, marketers now realize they need to tell them appealing stories: Kellogg cereal brand Special K, for example, runs the Special K Challenge, reaching out to women who want to lose weight. Ski resort Vail built a platform for tracking and sharing experiences.

But the industry persists in splitting traditional and digital ways of telling those same stories. Agencies even define themselves according to media—as PR, digital, mobile, creative, social, technology, Web, or media. Yes, the digital side has grown more prominent than ever. At the Cannes Lions Festival, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, and other tech giants were front and center, and McCann’s "Dumb Ways to Die" campaign—never intended for television broadcast—won a Grand Prix.

But the creative industry and its clients need to embrace storytelling from the perspective of consumers who connect with their world across multiple media platforms—online and off, traditional and digital. Consumer-centered storytelling reverses the current organizational model for agencies—from “touch-point first” to “story first” —to deliver stories that activate and engage these consumers across multiple touch points and media.