Here’s A Story For You

I read something on BFG Blog last week that disturbed me. Edward Boches, chief creative officer at Mullen, in an unwatchable interview from SXSW, says:

We’re not in the business, necessarily, of telling stories anymore. We may be in the business of inspiring others to tell stories for us, soliciting their participation in the telling of stories, or perhaps allowing them to become the story themselves if you think in terms of social media. And it actually requires an entirely new mindset…

I was going to let it go, because I don’t like to give outlandish rhetoric the attention it doesn’t deserve. But here we are…
Of course, I recognize that Boches and Mullen are free to interpret their own business in any way they like. That’s (literally) their business. But I don’t think he’s referring to Mullen above, he’s talking about the advertising industry.
AdPulp is not a rant-heavy site, and I don’t see the need to become one. However, we are a critical site and on the media and marketing beat there’s a never-ending supply of items to criticize.
Telling stories is at the very heart of the advertising enterprise, so I know I’m not alone when I say I’m not going to cede responsibility for the brand’s story to the crowd. However, I am perfectly willing, excited even, to work with a brand’s most engaged, camcorder-wielding customers.
I believe great ideas can surface from anywhere, and I’m open to receiving them. But I believe even more deeply in the craft of storytelling. Given that I do, I’m going to turn every time to the most gifted storytellers I can find to bring a strategic initiative to life.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Inspiring people to talk about our clients comes from creating well-crafted stories that are relevant and compelling, no matter what form they take or media they appear in.
    People telling our client’s story through social media has value, but so many agencies and businesses overly-rely on contests and this is likely to end in contest burn-out.
    Crowdsourcing may seem fresh in 2010, but it’s hardly a new phenomenon, e.g., the jingle writing contests of the 1950s. It too will pass.

  2. I, unlike many other creatives, do not perceive crowdsourcing and content creation as Armageddon.
    However, I feel the elephant in the room is still the fact that most of the “winners” of content-generation contests are creatives, hopeful creatives, production professionals, or something similar. As the esteemed MIT Advertising Lab notes ( it is simply a myth to say that consumers are picking up a flip video for the first time and cranking out commercial blockbusters. I am also doubtful that consumer-generated content is going to work very well for brands more complicated than Doritos.
    What we DO need, and lack in many ways, are creatives and other ad professionals who are willing to step outside their comfort zones and really try to see the world from the perspective of their customers.
    Empathy pays off.

  3. Thanks for the comments gentlemen.
    If social media can help us to “walk a mile in our customer’s shoes” then it’s well worth the outlay of time and effort. But is it marketing? It sounds more like customer service or field research, both of which definitely play into the larger marketing wheel, but are not in and of themselves “marketing.”