'What's the Story?' series to focus on storytelling craft

David Harbour shares his thoughts on storytelling at Whosay studio in NYC

For some time, the marketing industry has been enamored with the term “storytelling”. Though noble in its pursuit of calling advertising something other than advertising, the term can fall short.

Certainly, brands can lend themselves to actual storytelling. Nike is a notable example of a brand that can weave a pretty interesting story. No matter what side of the fence you sit on, Dove has unearthed some inspiring gems that tell strong stories. And, more recently, Whiskas in Brazil shared the moving story of how a cat helped a severely autistic child. There are plenty of other examples and, yes, bright spots in commercial storytelling, but the spirit of the word can get lost in translation.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of creating a good ad or a campaign. In fact, an ad may be the best solution for a brand or a client and that’s what this business is about: solving problems. But to couch it in “storytelling” can be a slippery slope.

However, with the massive change and upheaval in the industry that shows no sign of ever abating, understanding the importance of story is more important than ever. Not that everything needs to be wrapped neatly in storytelling, but knowing what makes a great story can be useful as everyone navigates these new waters.

And there’s no better place to glean inspiration than the entertainment industry, one that is managing its own forces of monumental change yet still places the greatest premium on story and storytelling.

Through the years, entertainment and marketing (the industries) were fairly far apart. But, over time, the circles in the Venn diagram between the two have gotten closer — to the point where marketing and entertainment are almost hand-in-hand.

Marketing can learn from entertainment and entertainment can learn from marketing.

To that end, The Drum saw a unique opportunity to be a conduit between the two with “What’s The Story?”, a new video series around the art and craft of storytelling. In its simplest form, the goal of this series is to share the perspectives of storytellers around what makes a great story.

“There’s a great deal to glean from the people who live in the storytelling realm,” said Doug Zanger, Americas editor of The Drum and creator of the series. “Our hope with ‘What’s the Story?’ is that it will inspire some new ways of thinking about stories and be a valuable resource for the creative industry. Conversely, we hope that the entertainment industry sees our side of the aisle as an important resource and partner in their goals as well.”

Actors, producers, directors, comedians, writers, musicians, authors, documentarians, creators and others will share their thinking on what makes a great story.

David Harbour of Stranger Things kicks off the series next week. Additional guests so far include Hidden Figures writer, Allison Schroeder; actors, Richard E. Grant (Logan) and Ginacarlo Esposito (Better Call Saul); hip-hop legend Warren G; Women’s March icon Milck; RSA Films director Luke Scott; documentarian Lesley Chilcott; director, Amir Bar-Lev and more.

So far, segments have been filmed at SXSW, Tribeca Film Festival, POWFest (Portland, Oregon), the Whosay studios and Advertising Week Europe.

The launch partner for the series is Branded Entertainment Network (BEN), the first global network for branded product integration in the entertainment industry, across all media, including the influencer space.

“We are living in a dynamic advertising and media landscape that will experience more change in the next 10 years than we’ve seen in the previous 50. This presents huge opportunities and threats to marketers,” said Greg Isaacs, chief product and marketing officer at BEN. “We believe the product integration category is poised to become a critical part of every marketer’s media mix and that brands play an important role in making stories and characters more authentic and memorable. We are excited to partner with The Drum to share this unique content with innovative marketers.”

Along with the series itself, BEN will feature in additional content that shines a lens on the art and science craft of product integration and includes select entertainment influencers and executives.

“The BEN team is a passionate bunch and we get excited to have conversations with innovative marketers about where the advertising and media landscape is headed,” added Isaacs. “We also love translating these conversations into meaningful results. Participating in these stories is thrilling to the team and I have no doubt that they will make everyone more informed and prepared for the future.”

'What's the Story?' begins Wednesday, May 31st, with the first video featuring David Harbour of the hit Netflix series Stranger Things.

Staff Writer

The Drum is a global media platform and the biggest marketing website in Europe. We produce The Drum magazine, 30 awards and events and manage The Drum Network which aims to make independently minded agencies more successful. We also help brands find the right agencies to work with through the Recommended Agency Register (RAR).

All by Staff