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For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.


For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

A frustrated journalist wrote that 30 years before he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. His name was Ernest Hemmingway.

You need at least four bits for a story: a protagonist, a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning sets the protagonist on a journey, the middle heightens the tension and the end moves you because someone’s life has changed. It doesn’t matter how long the story is, it will move you if it has those four bits.

Unless an ad has a story, it’s never going to move you.

TV advertising is so good because the master story-tellers of the last half century — the ones who put those four bits together better than anyone else — worked in TV advertising — they don’t work in ‘digital’, yet. You can bet that if Shakespeare or Hemmingway were alive in 2007 they would have been making Budweiser commercials for the SuperBowl and John West videos for YouTube. Give it another half century and the master story tellers will be using another medium, it will be digital — in that ones and zeroes will convey the information — but we will almost certainly be calling it something different.

I can’t wait to see what it looks like.

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3 Responses to For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

  1. I’m calling you out on this one Matt. Shakespear and Hemmingway would have been making Budweiser commercials? Two of history’s greatest writers? You my friend, are jumping the shark on this one!

  2. Matt Granfield says:

    No, Shakespeare and Hemmingway would have been writing The West Wing and Weeds, but my point is, some very smart minds are working in TV advertising because that’s the pinnacle up-and-coming story tellers are aiming for, they’re not aiming at digital, yet. And yes, of course there’ll always be people who want to write obscure novels, but great story tellers will want to make ads as well.

  3. Matt Moore says:

    Matt – I’m glad you chose that Hemingway six worder. It is one of my favourites. And yet the protagonist(s), beginning, middle & end are all implied – which is part of its power.

    The ad thing is interesting. There are ads that are beautiful 30-second short films but don’t drive sales of their products. To an outsider like me, there seems to be a bit of a disconnect in ad circles between appreciation/art (the awards culture) and effectiveness/commerce (selling stuff).

    It’s not just a question of talent but also experience. TV ads have developed over 50 years. We’ve had the internet as a mass medium for about a decade. Our ability to tell stories in this medium is still embryonic but developing very quickly – and that tension between art & commerce won’t go away, in fact it should drive some the most innovative storytelling we see.

    There’s a whole other discussion about the monopolization of storytelling in marketing by advertisers but that’s a rant for another time.

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