Case Study on Digital Storytelling — 100% Story

We all know a good story when we hear or read it, just like we know a good film when we see it. But there are many, many elements that need to come together to ensure that a story "works". From the youngest age, we have been conditioned by storytelling … there are conventions, expectations, structures and rhythms that need to be respected (or broken). There are archetypes that can be manipulated and themes that can be called upon, and there are even standard phrases (think "once upon a time"). But often, content creators of all kinds (from brand storytellers to creative directors) forget the basics — the beginning, middle and end.

In the past, I have worked with teams to work through these elements. I have pushed the beginning, middle and end because it provides a context within which we can tell stories. This is especially important in digital storytelling because context can often be a battleground, signifying everything or nothing. The role of the digital storyteller, however, is to reign in the context — to provide a focus. Precisely because the context can be so broad, the digital storyteller, must take a lead from the scientist — to study the micro, to set an agenda that cannot be seen by the naked eye — and deliver the razor sharp insight that will draw participants into the web of the story.

How is this done? Like anything, you need to start with an idea. This is the 1%. A good idea will get you started but an idea on its own is dormant. There is another 9% that is planning. You need to think through the what, why and how of your story. You need to consider the methods you will take to bring your idea to life.

The next 40% you need to focus on execution. This is the actual doing of the work. This brings together the idea and the strategy and makes it available to the world. The remaining 50% is participation …

It is this final 50% that is the MOST important element. Without the participation of an audience your project is a failure. In the digital story, all MEANING is co-created. That means that, after launch, your digital story continues. It needs feeding. You need to respond to the nuances of its reading. You need to ENGAGE.

Perhaps this is why brands struggle with the concept of digital storytelling. Perhaps this is why it is harder to plan for and activate/support a digital story … because they can, and do last forever. Mostly …

Katie Chatfield has created a fantastic presentation that explains and profiles Marcus Brown, who is in my view, one of the premier digital storytellers of our time. In this presentation, Katie steps through the process of digital storytelling, charting the rise, life and ultimate ending of some of Marcus’ characters whose digital exuberance spilled, at times, into real life. There was clearly a beginning, middle and end — and maybe even a hint at resurrection.

For those who are seeking to understand the alchemy, imagination and sheer effort required for digital storytelling, Katie’s presentation is of immense value. And for those of you who have not experienced the joy of Sacrum or the smiling nihilism of Charles Stab and their inventor, Marcus Brown, welcome and enjoy.

5 thoughts on “Case Study on Digital Storytelling — 100% Story

  1. I am trying to make it it as an ad planner and your post will definitely help me! Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Hard Numbers To Hit

    Gavin Heaton, has metered out the components of digital storytelling the way a conscientious chef would when writing a cook book. Like anything, you need to start with an idea. This is the 1%. A good idea will get you…

  3. this makes me want to write a story. and then enable me to be one of the heroines. and then allow people to meet the heroine in real life. wait. that’s happened already, hasn’t it?

  4. Curious how your division of effort backs up Michael Lebowitz (from Big Spaceship) argument against the due credits that traditional agencies should give to digital agencies (jumpstarted by BBDO’s Cannes Lions for HBO Voyeur).
    (story here:
    It goes like this: the amount of strategy, planning and execution performed by digital agencies is enormous when compared to the so called big idea from Madison Avenue people.
    Not to mention that usually digital agencies are huge participants also.
    Aren’t you interested in writing a post about “big idea” vs “strategy and execution”?

  5. Breaking the storybuilding/storytelling process down to percentages — incorporating that 50% for the digital types — has really got me thinking.
    You’ve convinced me: storytelling has completely changed in the digital age. That 50% almost suggests a “never-ending story” — the audience wants to see what happens to the storyline after the end (which is now not). And, as you say, the storytellers must now do so to keep engaging the audience.
    Honestly, this sounds truly exhausting for any author (writer or creative director), but in this age, I think we’re beginning to accept that there is no choice but to adapt. Digital and interactivity is not going away. (Not that any of us would want this, we bloggers, but there’s now always an extra element, always changing, to pay attention to.)
    Very thought provoking, Gavin! I’m off to check out Katie’s presentation.

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