These days I often hear of advertising people as ‘storytellers’. Apparently we’re all telling stories of products and services in order to promote them.
On this very issue I hereby call bullshit.
I get it: many of us want to think we’re somehow better or deeper people than mere floggers of goods on behalf those willing to pay us. Perhaps we want to believe that running a Twitter feed for a bank that launders money for drug dealers is not a soul-destroying use of a life. Or maybe we need to know that our 25%-off ad for potatoes is critically important to somebody somewhere.
But overall the pretence that this industry is in the business of something higher order, as if we’re presenting bite-sized versions of Great Expectations, or ‘snackable’ Jane Eyres demeans us all.
You’re an intelligent person. You’re surely far too bright to fall for the baseless flattery that attempts to make this job appear to be something it isn’t.
Watch an ad break. Scroll down your social media. Open a newspaper. Are the ads you’re seeing ‘stories’ by any generally-accepted meaning of that word? Or are they just about, maybe, if you squint really hard and stretch the definition like Silly Putty, something possibly, vaguely story-ish?
If you asked a bus driver if that poster they just passed told a story, would they agree, or look at you as if you were fucking bonkers?
The general acceptance of advertisers primarily as storytellers seems really odd to me. Somehow a bright, skeptical bunch of people who spend their working days trying to get other people to believe products are more important and significant than they actually are has fallen hard for their own schtick. (I know you haven’t fallen for it, dear reader. As always, we’re talking about other advertising people who are unfortunately a bit gullible.)
So let’s get real: we’re copywriters, art directors and advertisers who sometimes tell stories for our clients, but usually do nothing of the sort.
We’re not storytellers who just happen to ply their trade on behalf of chicken drumsticks and betting shops.
The sooner we get honest with ourselves about what we do, the sooner we can do it properly. After all, there’s plenty of dignity and pride to be found in this industry. Every time we pretend there isn’t, we indirectly shame ourselves, and life’s hard enough without dealing with shit like that.