Posts Tagged ‘Story’

Since it’s debut in 1970 on ABC, Monday Night Football has been a storied franchise. With nearly forty years of TV ratings success, that would be inevitable.  Week after week, the nation tunes in to watch the NFL in it’s most deluxe packaging–extra cameras, ever more innovative graphics, and a palpably higher level of excitement that only a two team national telecast spotlight can provide.

scaled_jpg.phpTonight, the Green Bay Packers visit the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field.  But that’s not the story. The story is Brett Favre vs. the Green Bay Packers.  People want to watch the perennial-retiree face the team he lead for sixteen seasons and by extension, the state that welcomed him deep into their hearts.  Green Bay and Favre were a storybook relationship that ended with feelings of betrayal and recrimination.  And it’s an awkward situation made worse because Favre ended up with Minnesota; these are two northern states with a deep-seated professional antitpathy.  Tonight’s game has so much interest, officials pushed back the Tigers-Twins one game baseball playoff game at the Metrodome til Tuesday.

I like the NFL, but I’m much more of a Saturday football fan.  Still, like every other person on the planet, I can’t resist a good story.  And tonight’s game features a terrific one, one that I’ll still care about even after every analyst and promo spot hammers it into overkill.  Stories matter, and the NFL brand seems to have an intuitive sense of that.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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A few of us from Element 79 came to New York City for an Omnicom program on digital platforms.  We spent the night at the Marriott Downtown in the heart of the still-bandaged Financial District.  After an al fresco pizza dinner at Adrienne’s, Brian Williams remembered once visiting ‘the oldest bar in New York City and so we set off in search of a pub called McSorley’s.

It’s obvious why writers love New York; every block holds a hundred stories (the Trinity Boxing Club behind our hotel with its brittle leather boxing gloves and fading poster of Rocky Marciano, the Volvo crossing the Brooklyn Bridge into Mannhattan with a canoe strapped to its roof), at least ten of which would make a compelling short story in the hands of Dorothy Parker or Robert Benchley or even Jay McInerney–this is after all, the financial district.  This town lives and breathes stories, and they came to vivid life when our taxis pulled up to McSorley’s in the East Village.

It’s a simple pub really, serving a few uninspired sandwiches and pints of either light or dark ale, neither of which is very heavy on the hops, with the light in particular displaying the brewer’s mystifying fondness of nutmeg.  Vintage photos and handbills cover the walls, the kind that Bennigan’s and TGIFriday’s reproduce with lifeless precision in their sanitized locations but here, they lay thick with the grime and dust of decades.  It is, after all, New York City’s oldest continually operating saloon, open since 1854.

Speaking of old, the clientele there helped me feel my proper age as they looked to average twenty-four or so, tops.  Gathered talking and flirting and joking around community tables, they smacked of first jobs and long hours, happily spending their paychecks at a watering hole they assured each other was ‘classic.’

Photo by Scott Beale, www.laughingsquid.com

Photo by Scott Beale, http://www.laughingsquid.com

And that’s what really hit me–these young adults with their wingtips and rep ties and work skirts were all enthusiastically reveling in the storied environs.  Three recent UVA grads at our table–two interning at law firms, one at Macy’s– were quick to share the story of the chicken bones hanging over a ceiling lamp above the bar.  Apparently McSorley’s served chicken dinners back around the Second World War and outbound GI’s would save the wishbones from their meals and balance them up on the light fixture, with plans to take them down when they returned from the front.  On that happy day, they would hoist a few pints and pull them apart, preparing for their post war life.

More than a dozen of those wishbones still remain on the light fixture, coated with a heavy rime of greasy dust, talismans for men who never came back from Europe or the Pacific.  The young law school grads pointed them out to us with a respectful awe, clearly caught up in the lives and drama of those soldiers of the great war who lived in an era so far removed from our own.

Why should these young people care?  In a world of 3G networks and text messaging and a million and one everyday miracles where everything is amazing and nobody is happy, why does a sixty year old tale still hold such a powerful sway on the imagination?  Why do legends still loom so large with young people who ostensibly have so many other distractions?

Because they are very good stories.  And in the end, though cities may crumble and our civilization may change in a million different ways, stories are what we hold dear.  Stories bring us together, demonstrating our common hopes and dreams and laughter and sadness in a way no other art form does.  Stories make us human.

Stories matter.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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To Ireland's Finest, With Ireland's Finest...   

A Toast To Ireland’s Finest, With Ireland’s Finest…

We value authenticity these days.  So we accept less flattering lighting and awkward camera moves even as we celebrate the banal and achingly average, all in the pursuit of some notion of ‘the Truth.’

The trouble with capital T “Truth” lies in the fact that sometimes, it pales before a good story,  a surprising story, a story that takes a twist and leaves you slack-jawed by the turn.

This St. Patrick’s Day, take a lesson from the great one himself–the fifth century Christian missionary who eventually became Ireland’s Patron Saint…

He was born a Scot.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Yep, for the moment I’m setting aside Groundswell and Buyology for all 480 pages of Story, a ten year old, way too heavy hardcover that focuses mainly on the craft of screenwriting.  Why?

Today's Marketing Must-Read

Today's Marketing Must-Read

Because I no longer believe that campaigns measure up in our web 2.0, socially networked world.  Today, we broadcast our messages into an environment where we can control them perhaps seventy percent of the time.  Consumers drive the other thirty percent: blogging, posting reviews, tagging Flickr photos, making YouTube videos and simple word of mouth recommendations.  When we must cede control of the message nearly a third of the time, we need to rethink every assumption we hold regarding pushing out campaigns.

And that takes me back, not immediately to McKee’s 1997 hardcover, but rather some 17,000 years to the Paleolithic age in the South of France.  Admittedly, I wasn’t there, yet those prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux still possess an eerie power all these eons later.  Because those strangely-dynamic images of bulls and horses vividly engender the notion of story; a story told once, then again, then tens of thousands of times, evolving, changing and growing with each new storyteller.

The Magdalenian Age's Must Read

The Magdalenian Age's Must Read

And that takes me back to McKee.  As marketers, we must get really smart about the principles of storytelling. If we can shape compelling brand stories that motivate and engage our consumers, and at the same time specifically identify and highlight foundational aspects of those brand stories, then we will make it easier for our consumers to add their own experiences to our brand story foundation, personalizing the brand to themselves and evangelizing it to all of their friends.  And that sounds like a way forward: not thinking about campaigns, but obsessing over story.

Besides, “campaign” is such a warlike word.  “Story” is so much more inviting, so much more one-to-one, so much more fundamentally human and authentic.  

You know, like the best brands.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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