Advertising Week Europe feels a lot like a university enrollment day, except everyone smells of Costa Rican coffee and lavender. Its last Tuesday morning we we're talking stories, with me chairing a panel presented by DCM, and featuring Mike Bennett (CEO/Creative Director/Founder of OIL Studios), Ed Edwards (Creative Director at HAVAS Worldwide) and Asif Kapadia (Director of the Academy Award winning film 'Senna'). The subject of discussion: 'The Art of Cinematic Storytelling'.
We are well into 2013, and the cinema industry is working tirelessly to turn the cinema experience into what Asif calls, "a set-piece event" - something unique to the space that cannot possibly be recreated at home. I liked that and think cinema is naturally that. Once you take away all the frills and fizzy drinks, what remains is the culture of the cinema space - an unspoken agreement between creator and beholder: one party provides the highest quality of entertainment, the other reciprocates with their undivided attention. A mutually beneficial arrangement that has served both storyteller and cinemagoer well for nigh on a century.
Maybe brands are in a 'can't see the woods for the trees'-type situation. If cinema is the purest, most powerful storytelling platform, then its full potential for brands can only be realized once we go back to telling pure and powerful stories. Could this push towards audience-to-screen interactivity be something of a red herring? Do we not run the risk of diluting or muddying what is in fact our last pure storytelling experience? Cinema is, to an extent, its own 360 consumer journey, generated and cultivated by a broad, pre-existing market of impassioned taste-makers. It's social and cultural currency. Perhaps the answer to brands' success in cinema lies not in creating new modes of delivery, but in mastering that which is inherent to the medium.
But what does that mean for integrated campaigns? Asif reckons the answer might be for brands to take full advantage of the emotional impact of the big screen by introducing their story there, and then allowing consumers to continue their journey later, at their own convenience, via short-form content and more interactive communications on their second screens.
Mike gets us laughing at US audiences punching the air at anti-alien punches in Independence Day and Ed entertains us with his most recent trip to the movies. "A lot of gobbledygook was coming up before the film, and everyone was glued to it the whole time." Maybe this is learnt behavior, but maybe it's something more inherent in human nature - to want to escape, to want to be informed, to want to submit to the power of pure storytelling and be swept away in all the bright lights and loud noises. Either way, if the audience is already there, attentive as ever, is brand success in the space not merely a case of upholding our end of the bargain?
Cinema's current resurgence proves that, even in this fragmented, second-by-second digital age, the hunger for engaging, immersive, crafted storytelling is still buzzing within us all. After all, storytelling predates verbal language - that's why cinema has maintained worldwide appeal since its conception. The desire to receive stories is something innate, and thus remains immune to behavioral trends. Maybe we've just lost our way - blinded by the bright lights and the machine hum. Maybe it's time brands remembered how to tell stories the way humans most naturally wish to receive them.