• 20/02/2017

A New Era of Story Telling

Advertising is moving into this new territory of content storytelling. A more emotional engagement. With this in mind, we need to approach the narrative of the film differently - Director Ricardo Mehedff


At Farmer Clark we spend our days crafting real stories about real people. Whether it’s TVCs, long form brand docs or somewhere in between, we look for compelling characters, defining moments, emotions and revelations.

It’s a process where we nut out the narrative, talk (and argue) through lots of ideas.

And it’s a natural process because fundamentally human beings are storytellers. Most of us can spin a yarn. Stories are how we all make sense of and explain the world. Stories can be spoken, written, performed, enacted, projected, performed, orchestrated and printed. Story is central to art and to business and we now have a mind-boggling array of options and platforms to disseminate our stories (social, interactive, immersive anyone?) 

But the fundamental questions we still need to ask remain the same. What are the elements of a strong story? How can we craft stories that persuade, move, entertain, and resonate? And if all of us are inundated with advertising messaging how can our stories be heard above the crescendo of media noise?

Novelist George Dawes Green said, “at the centre of every great story is some kind of human flaw.”  It was this truism that guided a documentary I wrote when I worked in America about Ohio state football coach Woody Hayes. The doco ended up winning Emmy awards not because of my stellar knowledge of American football (I barely understood the game!) but because of the larger themes the script spoke to. Hayes was a tragic figure; the very drive that pushed him to immense success on the field was also a tragic flaw that led to a highly publicised and televised downfall. 

I thought back to the experience making that film as I watched “First Days out” a four minute documentary film for Pedigree by AlmapBBDO. It’s a story following two newly released inmates Joey and Matt who get their lives back on track after they adopt rescue dogs. 


The film works for several reasons. First and most obvious it’s a bold choice for a brand to feature imperfect men. Typically advertising TVCs only feature male emotion or vulnerability when played for a gag or a laugh. This ad is typical of that trend 


And yet precisely because Joey and Matt show emotion and vulnerability they are fully rounded and empathetic characters. (There’s a similar theme of emotional vulnerability running through our series for the BNZ be Good with Money campaign http://farmerclark.com/bnz-be-good-money ) 

Second, the central idea about a dog’s innocence and their ability to bring out the best in people is not overplayed. When Joey states, " They all looked kind of sad, just like I was—just caged in," it’s a matter of fact delivery and the edit resists the urge to thump the viewer over the head with a manipulative musical score. Director Ricardo Mehedff credits this to his strong background in documentary filmmaking. Another important takeaway gleaned from an Adweek interview with the director and one that mirrors our own experience: Great casting is vital and takes time. As Mehedff explains, “If you rush this phase, you're dead in the water.”

Alison Farmer