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Dipstick: Has digital freedom made storytelling easier?

Digital campaigns can now run longer than traditional 30-second ads. But is it good for storytelling? BestMediaInfo talks to experts to find out

Roshni Nair | Mumbai | October 17, 2016


Good stories are eternal, they transcend time and space and strike a chord with people irrespective of myriad differences. Advertising has always been about telling the right story, to the right people and at the right time. Earlier it was the print ads and radio, then came television and the 30-second ads that became the gold standard of television marketing. Now with the advent of digital, there are more options than ever before.

Today, ad campaigns can run for more than 60 seconds and they are more interactive as well. So, have digital campaigns that can run longer than the traditional 30-seconders made storytelling easier? BestMediaInfo spoke to industry experts to understand whether digital campaigns and the flexibility they offer with regard to time have made the art of storytelling easier or not.

Expert views:

Bobby Pawar Bobby Pawar

Bobby Pawar, Managing Director and Chief Creative Officer, Publicis India

I think that with a time constraint you can’t tell deeper, more involved stories that are far more complex than something that unfolds very quickly in 30 seconds. The freedom of time that digital provides is going to be great for really good storytellers and it is going to expose the bad storytellers. Guys who don’t know how to tell a great story, what makes a great story, what moves people and how it is structured are going to be exposed. In a 30-second format, you can rely on just on the power of the idea and you move out. But when you are telling a longer story, I think the narrative itself must be great in addition to the idea.

Prahald Kakkar Prahald Kakkar

Prahald Kakkar, Advertising Filmmaker

The discipline of the 30-second ad to tell a story was always the synthesis of storytelling. For example, a Haiku is a poem that has 17 syllables and three lines. The origin of Haiku is that it is a Samurai warrior’s death poem. When a Samurai warrior prepared for war, he also prepared for his death and a Haiku really was the meaning of a Samurai’s entire life. When a Samurai warrior went to war he wrote the meaning of his entire life in 17 sentences and three lines. Now, if you can discipline yourself to write the meaning of life in 17 sentences and three lines, that is the ultimate storytelling. Just because you have been given latitude to tell your story in greater depth and greater length does not make it better, as a matter of fact it makes it flabby. The business of storytelling is the art of compressing time without it seeming compressed or being in a hurry. Film is a language and to write poetry in film, especially if it is constrained to 30 seconds, it has to be of the highest possible quality. So, the danger of having as much time as you want to tell the story, like a feature film, is that if you don’t have the discipline. If you don’t have the storytelling capabilities and you if don’t understand the grammar and language of filmmaking, you run the risk of being flabby with your storytelling.


Abhijit Avasthi Abhijit Avasthi

Abhijit Avasthi, Founder, Sideways Consulting

I don’t think there is anything like easier or tougher. I would say that it is just another canvas and some people will take to the interactivity and the other storytelling patterns that the digital canvas offers a little more easily than some others. See, you can tell a story on print, radio, television and you can tell a long format story which has an element of interactivity but I think they are just different canvasses and different creative people will use them differently. So I don’t think it is making it easier or tougher, easy or tough is what you make of it.

Suresh Eriyat Suresh Eriyat

Suresh Eriyat, Founder & Creative Director, Eeksaurus

While some films do get over-stretched, the 30-second films had a lot of focus in the sense that they needed to get the story communicated in that much time. But my point of view is that both of them are not comparable. People look for longer stories for digital campaign and that is why they are long, it is not because they can’t make a 30-second film for digital. When you have a longer duration and a bigger format as in a digital campaign, you obviously deal with it differently. For example, a 30-second film need not be captivating in the very first five seconds but when you are making a digital campaign it has to captivate the audience in the very first five seconds or the viewer will move on to something else. In an ideal situation, the construct of both kinds of films should be very different.

Anoushka Adya Anoushka Adya

Anoushka Adya, Founder and Partner, Di-Mentions Studios

Stories are what people remember. Even when they forget names and faces, they rarely forget the story and how it made them feel. The mission of businesses using storytelling as a marketing tool should be to help customers connect the stories they tell to the benefits of their product. Digital storytelling takes away the time constraint and allows for the emotional connect to build with the audience. The digital medium also allows for the story to be shown to a relevant audience. Hence storytelling is definitely becoming easier and more powerful with digital campaigns.


Prashant Gopalakrishnan Prashant Gopalakrishnan

Prashant Gopalakrishnan, Associate Vice-President, Strategic Accounts (South), Dentsu Webchutney

Brands today, fuelled by digital as a medium, have evolved from creating ads to curating content. The sheer dynamism of the digital ecosystem gives these brands the opportunity to experiment as the risks are far smaller than traditional advertising. In fact, going beyond even traditional digital advertising, today brands in partnership with content aggregators like TVF, AIB create stories tailor-made to their requirements.

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