The Storytellers: Peter Souter, TBWA

Why storytelling is such a powerful technique in brand communication depends on your perspective. Read on for "The Ad Exec's" take on how best to use narrative to engage.

Peter Souter, TBWA
Peter Souter, TBWA

Just so you know, this is how you tell a story: set up, expand, twist, resolve. Keep those four beats in mind next time you watch a movie, read a story or even listen to a joke. If they are any good, their story will follow that path. You can rail against the rules if you like, but you'll just end up boring or confusing your audience.

Humans need stories. Good stories bind us. They create heroes and villains, deliver meanings and messages. Stories are the way we communicate; they stimulate us and ignite our emotions. They make us human.

It's no surprise, then, that in an age when brands want to appear human, they have to become masters of storytelling. Take a look at social media, where the sharing of stories has never been more overt. But those of us who create stories for money must remember: there's no drama without conflict. You can't bore people into listening to a story - or into buying stuff.

Find an interesting area of conflict and set your story there. Will that guy die trying to surf that wave? Can that spray help the ugly kid to get girls? Will those meerkats ever work out why they have Russian accents?

Great marketing directors have to shun their marketing textbooks and reach for their Shakespeare. Or at least watch a lot of Modern Family and House of Cards.

Hey, and cut your agency some slack. A good story is hard to tell, but incredibly easy to bugger up.

Peter Souter is chief executive of TBWA