To know just how much things have changed, let’s go back in time. Not too far back, just to my 18th birthday in Amman, Jordan in 1993. I lived on a planet where I had access to two TV channels, one English radio station, and one English-language newspaper.
Now imagine trying to explain to 18-year-old me the planet we live on today. A planet where every person is walking around (and usually ignoring each other) with a piece of glass and metal in the palm of their hand that weighs less than 200 grams.
Through this piece of glass, you can access every film ever made, every book ever written, every piece of music ever performed, and every news article ever published, anytime you want to. And most of it is available for free.
Not only that, you can see and hear every other person in the world anytime you want to. You can buy almost anything you want, or you can order your food. You can see every inch of the Earth, and every star in the sky. You can seek out your future husband, or apply for a job, through this piece of glass.
It seems that this little piece of glass has changed everything in the way these people live on this planet.
An 18-year-old today – who sits in the heart of Generation Y – the next generation of consumers born in the 1980s and 1990s, lives on a different More than half of the GCC’s population is under 25. 87,000 possible combinations of drinks available at Starbucks. expects the level of personalisation and service that Amazon offers in every aspect of their lives. any question or need, whether personal, professional, commercial, or social, can be found through the endless digital content available to them. If the solution isn’t there, they’ll invent it (witness Uber or Airbnb). accesses Facebook 14 times a day on average, expecting a completely personalised experience. With the choice to opt out of ever seeing a brand’s advertising again. To speak to 18-year-old me, all you had to do to capture my attention was show me the best thing available on two channels. To speak to this generation, you don’t need to offer them the best thing available across two channels, or one thousand channels, or one million websites. You need to offer them the best thing they have ever seen
Sounds pretty daunting, doesn’t? You see, everything has changed.
And yet… The word “advertising” comes from the Latin “ad vertere” which means “to turn toward”. Capturing someone’s attention – to “turn them towards” our message – has been the guiding principle of our industry for the last 150 years. And at the heart of this pursuit has been storytelling.
Throughout human history, storytelling has existed at the heart of our civilisation. Stories are how we educate, entertain and enlighten each other, and the best stories can endure forever – passing through generations and across millennia. Storytelling works because it allows the listener to create rational and emotional connections between cause and effect, and to internalise lessons in the most impactful way.
While the structure of the stories we tell has stayed remarkably the same throughout the ages, the way in which we tell stories never stops changing. Though some may seem quaint now, every evolution in media and technology has taken hold largely through its ability to tell stories effectively for a new audience. From the Roman amphitheater to the printing press, from colour television to the internet, every shift in communication has ushered in better methods of storytelling.
In this new world of unlimited content, channels and interactivity, the story has changed. As the amount of noise – marketing messages, endlessly available content – increases, convincing our audience to “turn towards” us has never been harder.
However, in today’s world of endless information and noise, our audience is more susceptible to great stories than ever before, because