Tell More Stories. Make Less Ads.

In Industry News, Storytelling on August 13, 2012 at 10:03 am

“Nobody reads ads. People read what’s interesting. Sometimes it’s an ad.” Famed ad man Howard Gossage’s timeless words serve as a guiding reminder to those of us who create messages on a daily basis, and to the clients who pay agencies to shape them.

Simply put, advertising is interruption. We are the distraction between pages of the latest issue of Vanity Fair, the banner ad above the online feature news story in the Rapid City Journal, the seemingly endless line of billboards between Box Elder and Spearfish, or that commercial before the season finale of Breaking Bad. No one actively seeks our messaging, but we must find and engage interested recipients nonetheless.

I believe the key lies in being meaningful and relevant, no matter where your message runs. Too often, advertisers respond with the wrong solutions. They become loud. Attention seeking. Obnoxious, Stir crazy. Or overly dependent on special effects. No matter what it takes or costs in the end. But these solutions only build consumer resentment and resistance. In the communication business, being meaningful and relevant ties back to the most human and ancient art form – storytelling.

I want to use this opportunity to invite everyone to take part in an evening that has the ability to change your perception on the relevance of storytelling forever. On September 14, the Black Hills chapter of the American Advertising Federation will host Jay O’Callahan, believed by many to be the world’s greatest living storyteller. He will perform  “Forged in the Stars” a story commissioned by NASA (Yes, that NASA) for their 50th anniversary.

O’Callahan has performed at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, National Theatre Complex in London, the Olympics, Lincoln Center, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, The Associated Press called him, “a theater troupe inside one body,” and the National Endowment of the Arts awarded him a fellowship for solo performance excellence.

I had the opportunity to witness a Jay O’Callahan performance at the 2012 OTA Sessions in Sioux Falls. As a speaker, an attendee, even a host of sorts, I’ve been to a lot of conferences in the past three years. And no matter the city, no matter the industry, no matter the audience, the topic that unquestionably attracts the most attention is social media. Yet, I’d wager that the majority of OTA attendees would say the most inspiring session was not about social media. General consensus was that the best session was about good old-fashioned storytelling. Nearly 300 creative, marketing and advertising professionals sat in absolute silence for well over an hour smitten by the effortless grace of someone who’s tirelessly perfected their craft. It was a subtle reminder that Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blogs, online reviews, you name it, are all just tools that need to be anchored by good stories to garner attention and maximize effectiveness. Tweet that.

Jay O’Callahan’s September 14th performance at the Dahl Arts Center is essential for anyone directly or indirectly involved with marketing, advertising, strategic development, corporate communication, social media, design, copywriting and the like. That’s because everyone in the industries above tell stories. The core values of your organization tell a story. The search function on your website tells a story. The wording on your performance review forms tells a story. The shape of your business card tells a story. The kerning in your logo tells a story.

Sure, storytelling can sometimes be a formidable task. But, when in doubt remember Gossage. Stand for something. Be clear. But most of all, be interesting. Jay O’Callahan, without exception, is the greatest living embodiment of all the above.

Watch Jay O’Callahan’s discussion and a short segment from “Forged in the Stars”

Register here to attend Jay O’Callahan’s Dahl Arts Center performance of “Forged in the Stars”

Learn more about AAF-Black Hills

AAF-Black Hills Membership Options


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