The Art of Storytelling in a Mobile World

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At this moment in the digital landscape, technology plays a far greater role than ever before.  On the B2B side, the best digital campaigns use programmatic technologies or algorithmic means to target the right consumers.  On the B2C side, consumer technologies shift us to a new mix of consumption and device behaviors with the undeniable shift to mobile currently at the core.  Yet, as technology guides and delivers our strategies, we must keep storytelling at the forefront of our thinking.

Techniques for storytelling have evolved with the media landscape – and yet so much has stayed the same.  From a thirty-second spot to a native ad on a publisher’s site, brands hope to ignite a spark with their current and potential customers.  And that spark comes from stories that grab people’s attention, hold them tight and have a memorable impact.  So while it’s easy to get caught up in the buzzwords of “native,” “programmatic,” and “social,” it’s critical to remember that those are simply tactics and delivery mechanisms – what one delivers is vitally important: a brand story.

As we begin to contemplate the power of storytelling on mobile devices, there are a few important guideposts to keep in mind:

  • Don’t look for the adjacency. In television, we can move from the show we love seamlessly into a pod of commercials (if we haven’t yet decided to skip them); in magazines, we can turn a page from engrossing editorial content to a full page or spread of glossy, beautiful creative; and even on desktop screens, we can look at a display or text ad adjacent to the content we consume.  On mobile, the game is fundamentally different: there is no adjacency.  The screen is simply too small.  Our most compelling options will reside in feeds in a scrolling content experience or, even better, in a full-screen, highly immersive format.
  • Be “native” to the device. Native advertising helps brands find their voice closest to the publisher’s so consumers embrace the message.  But on mobile, it is perhaps even more important to think about native gestures of the form factor – a touchable screen.  A click mentality cannot guide us – storytelling and creative must lean into actions that make sense on a phone or tablet – tapping, swiping, and scrolling are the motions that humans actually make on these digital experiences and therefore brand stories should employ these techniques.
  • Open strong. If we have learned anything from the 140 characters of Twitter, the skippable ads of online video, the six seconds of Vine, and the speed of scrolling through a social newsfeed, it is that brand stories must grab attention even faster than before.  Mobile stories are no exception: in an on-the-go multitasking context, stories have to be compelling far faster than prior creative – the beginning of the story often dictates whether people will be willing to see the rest.
  • Close strong. And as important as the opening must be, we have to think about the outcome we seek and the lasting impression of the end of a story.  For media like television, magazines, and radio, the ask of consumers was often in another venue – picking up a phone, going to a site, or heading to a store.  But mobile devices have such an integrated role in consumers’ lives that we must be sure we explore the full potential for activation of commerce online and even offline.  Our calls to action must be crisp and clear.

Mobile is here to stay, so this is a time to truly evolve the art of storytelling to embrace the inherent realities and the full creative and business potential of this incredibly critical medium.

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