Pitch the Story, Not the Platform

As I sketch out ideas for a digital global awareness campaign, I keep referencing something @NickDeMartino notes in his article (and where I get my headline), What the Transmedia Movement Has to Teach (And to Learn)

If you’re in moviemaking or advertising, you’re creating story (as brand) or brand (as story) and your narrative unfurls across multiple channels and platforms, in emerging formats, intersecting online, and inviting participation from audiences along the way — rarely to change the story but more to uncover subplots and other points of fascination (or engagement, if you’re a marketer).

From proposals to interactive projects, I’ve witnessed brilliantly assembled teams of brilliant creatives favoring tactics over strategy — format over story.

It’s tempting to start with “the Web” and fan out ideas for apps or YouTube playlists; hashtags that should be used on Twitter and places people can check in to unlock prizes. But that’s rarely about story. That’s about places. That’s all platform. 

I’ve seen plenty of campaigns built around timelines, with clear nodes and content formats for pre-awareness, engagement, activation, conversation, conversion… but that’s not really about story either. That’s about time. That’s about persuasion. 

The best example I have of taking narrative, identifying the lean in and lean back moments and allowing creative, copy, and code to fall out of that comes from my AOL days, which is sort of surprising to me as I look back in hindsight.

Master storytellers roamed those Dulles corridors (the good news for me is that I still get to work with a few of them) and inside that so-called walled garden, we were crafting how stories played out across a network. A tweak here, click-through there, and we could coerce massive waves of captive audiences through different experiences over the course of a day. We did it so well, so often, that I think we took the network (the platform) for granted. Looking back, that’s probably why it was so effective. The focus was on the story.  

So as I steal the strategic ideas that I overhear from the transmedia community, and learn from adlands’ best and worst, I find myself going back to my old files and pulling out those old best practices. Might be time to do some tinkering over the Thanksgiving hols and see if I can build a better brief… 


  1. gigidowns posted this