visual storytelling trends

5 Hot Visual Storytelling Trends (Part 2)

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the first part of our blog post about visual storytelling trends. If not, you might want to read it first. If you have read it, let’s continue with the second part and find out what 2016 will bring us.

1 Interactive Storytelling

In a previous post, we noted the growing popularity of the unique hybrid form of interactive stories. A seamless integration of a variety of mediums–from the written word and still images to interactive graphs, maps and animations–the interactive story is paving the way for new forms of transmedia storytelling in our convergence culture. These highly versatile formats are singular in their ability to give the user the freedom to navigate information, choose possible narrative paths and delve as deep as they desire into a certain topic.

While these highly interactive stories require more time and resources to produce, they also have a longer lifespan than your average piece of content. These interactive stories, for example, are still being viewed years after they were first posted.

As it becomes less time-consuming and expensive to produce these types of stories, more and more companies will start to resort to this innovative storytelling format, such as CUNA Brokerage Services did with this interactive module.

Larger corporations such as American Express are crafting game-like experiences in which users can explore scenes with a 360-degree view. This interactive musical experience starring Taylor Swift, for example, features dozens of rooms, scenes, characters, objects and intertwined story-lines waiting to be discovered by users.

No longer the sole terrain of media giants such as The New York Times and The Guardian, interactive storytelling is going to continue to be the center of attention of corporations and organizations in the coming years.

 

2 Virtual Reality

News and media giants such as Facebook and The New York Times are already making hefty investments in virtual reality technology. Meanwhile, SXSW Interactive, a conference for interactive technology trendsetters, predicts 2016 will be the year in which virtual and augmented reality will explode.

While it still may take a few years for VR technology to go truly mainstream, early adopters will quickly set the stage for surging interest among the rest of the population by the end of the year when Facebook (Oculus) and Samsung release Gear VR, a new virtual reality headset.

Virtual reality presents exciting opportunities for storytelling. Besides being able to have out-of-body and fly-on-the-wall experiences, users will also be able to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. By immersing viewers in experiences they would never have in real life–as is done in this made for VR story of a face-to-face encounter with opposing enemies in a war–people will be able to feel first-hand what it’s like to be someone else.

The World Economic Forum, for example, is already using VR technology to craft an immersive story of what it’s like to be a Syrian refugee. Called Project Syria, the story draws elements from actual audio, video and images taken on scene.

 

3 The Internet of Things

Known also as the “Network of Everything,” the Internet of Things is the network of physical objects embedded with electronics, software and sensors to allow them to be sensed and controlled remotely across a network infrastructure. This has huge implications as it will allow the direct integration of physical objects and computer-based systems. But what does this mean for visual storytelling?

According to experience designer Lance Weiler, wherever technology has gone, storytelling has followed. As the Internet of Things develops, it will provide the possibility of creating a story layer over the real world by allowing real objects and physical locations to become extensions of a fictional narrative. He also foresees that “experience designers” will soon become the “film directors of the 21st century.”

He is already living this prediction out by producing interactive documentaries such as Bear71. Incorporating everything from facial detection software and motion sensors to wireless trail cams and augmented reality, this groundbreaking film allows viewers to become animals who are tracked within the fictional world of the film.

 

4 Real-Time Storytelling

Since March, companies and media organizations have been warming up to two new live-streaming apps: Periscope and Meerkat. Although streaming live video is nothing new, the new apps enhance social media storytelling by linking the live stream to a Twitter or Facebook account and allowing thousands of followers to view it in real time.

Fast food company Wendy’s, for example, used the apps in June to feature the comedy duo Rhett & Link. As they chatted with Periscope viewers, more than 4,400 people visited the company’s website. In June, Frito Lay also streamed a game show that allowed viewers to win prizes, while advertising a new product to more than 15,000 viewers.

 

5 Wearable Tech

Wearables such as Google Glass and the Apple Watch are also revolutionizing the way storytellling is done. Groundbreaking in its ability to gather stories from a mobile, first-person point-of-view and include any number of people in the storytelling process, Google Glass has already been used by citizen journalists to record and document arrests. It has also been used by a former TV journalist to tour the U.S. and tell the stories of disabled veterans in a way that has never been done before (see video above).

The device can also be used to create what’s called augmented storytelling. An augmented mystery story, for example, might have a commentator feeding information to one viewer, such as “Character A is lying because of X reason,” while a second viewer might be watching the same show but receiving different feedback from the commentator. In the end, the two can compare their experiences of the mystery and then compare conclusions.

Meanwhile, the Apple Watch allows you to gather biometric data to tell an unconventional story. For example, an out-of-the-box story about an exciting day may include heart rate data collected with the Apple Watch, which is then visualized using an interactive graph, chart or infographic.

As you can see 2016 has some great things in mind for us if it comes to visual storytelling. We at Southern Wild Productions follow the trends closely and are excited to start using these new ways of storytelling in our productions.

visual storytelling

5 Hot Visual Storytelling Trends (Part 1)

In the era of the internet and mobile devices we finally have a chance of using visual storytelling to it’s full potential. People are visually oriented creatures that want to communicate effectively. This definitely goes for businesses through advertising. So let’s look at why visual storytelling works so well in this first part.

“We now live in a world where information is potentially unlimited. Information is cheap, but meaning is expensive. Where is the meaning? Only human beings can tell you where it is. We’re extracting meaning from our minds and our own lives.”

The science historian and futurist George Dyson made this insightful observation back in 2011, but his words could not be more true today. In a world inundated with information and big data, the task at hand for editors, graphic artists, illustrators, programmers and journalists is not to create more information, but to make sense of what’s already out there.

And this is where visual storytelling comes into the picture. A combination of two powerful concepts–visual content and storytelling–visual storytelling is the next big thing in every field related to communication, from content marketing and graphic design to data journalism and digital media.

To illustrate the enormous power of these two concepts combined, let’s tackle each individually.

Fastest Growing Social Networks in 2015Fastest Growing Social Networks in 2014-2015

Fastest Growing Social Networks in 2014-2015 (Source: GlobalWebIndex)

 

Visual Content Reigns

Visual content is by far the most effective medium of communication on the Internet today. Whether it comes in the form of stunning images, captivating video, or colorful infographics, visual content is the new king of the digital world.

The numbers also attest to this. According to statistics from November 2014, image-based social media platforms such as Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram grew exponentially, outpacing traditionally text-based platforms many times over (see graph above, no newer data is available at this moment).

The reason for this is simple, even though the name for it may sound complex. It’s called the Picture Superiority Effect, and it simply refers to the fact that concepts are much more likely to be remembered if they are presented in visual form rather than as words.

This makes sense when you know that the human mind processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text and that 83% of human learning is visual, as opposed to auditory or verbal.

But visual content on its own cannot move audiences to take a certain action. You need stories to do that. This is why storytelling is such an important ingredient in the visual content marketing mix and where it becomes visual storytelling.

 

Storytelling Quote Therese Fowler

 

Storytelling: A Tool for Finding Meaning

Defined simply as the act of narrating a sequence of events that are causally connected, storytelling is at the heart of what makes human beings capable of extracting meaning from seemingly incongruous and unrelated data. In fact, cognitive scientists believe that the human mind innately processes and stores incoming information in the form of stories.

To see for yourself how the human mind makes sense of information by creating stories, read the following three sentences:

He went to the store

Fred died.

Sharon went hungry and wept.

After reading this, did you assume that “he” in the first sentence referred to “Fred” in the second sentence? Did you somehow connect Sharon with Fred and conclude that she wept because Fred died? Did you also assume that Fred went to a grocery store to get something for Sharon to eat?

This short exercise from Kendall Haven’s book Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story reveals how the brain, by default, creates stories from a series of events even if they are unrelated. According to psychologist Jerome Bruner, the human mind uses narratives to give shape to events in the real world and then perceives them as reality.

“Why do we use story as the form for telling about what happens in life and in our own lives? Because, most often, life follows story form and format. We use it because it usually works. Because it usually works, we have learned to rely on it as our primary mental model,” he writes.

Another reason stories are preferred by the human mind is that they bring order to the events we perceive around us. Because the human mind is always demanding meaning, whether consciously or unconsciously, it goes so far as to create, and even invent, connections between events by using basic story elements such as cause-and-effect sequencing, common themes and character analysis. What’s more, if the mind cannot create an orderly narrative from incoming information, it tends to ignore it.

To say the least, stories are powerful. When combined with visual content, they can send a message, incite emotions and move to action more effectively than any other form of communication out there.

Now that we’ve explored the reasons behind why visual storytelling surpasses all other content forms, it’s time to take a look now at the trends that are shaping its future, at least this year. But before we dive into that I would suggest to let this sink in. Later this week we’ll get back to you on the visual storytelling trends that are expected for 2016, when we continue with Part 2 of this article. So stay tuned and don’t hesitate to let us know what you think!

Film Production Set

Production Houses As a One-Stop Shop

More and more brands are going straight to production houses for the creation of their online video content. Many brands know the power and influence behind well-executed web video advertising. However, more and more of them are going around their agency for their online video needs.

When all a brand needs is a short, one-off piece unrelated to a larger, strategic marketing campaign, it now tends to tap digital studios, therefore cutting out the middle-man ad agency that would, on the whole, cost more. This tactic leads to a faster production schedule and better guarantee that the video will be a success among digital audiences.

“It’s about hiring execution,” said Altimeter analyst Rebecca Lieb to AdWeek. “Agencies do a lot of strategy and ideation, which is sometimes not what you need. Sometimes, you just need to get stuff done.”

Online Production

Freshpet’s recent video ad with the Apparently Kid is a perfect example of a large brand hitting up an online video-focused production studio. To create the video ad, the pet food company partnered with ShareAbility, whose tagline reads “We Create Content for the YouTube Generation.” And YouTube audiences definitely loved Freshpet and ShareAbility’s work; the Apparently Kid video now boasts over 3.5 million views and was shared more than 35,000 times, which caused a 416% spike in daily traffic to Freshpet’s site.

[youtube id=”Gm5mNF_gyxY” align=”center” mode=”normal” autoplay=”no” maxwidth=”700″ grow=”yes”]

“The Internet has changed everything in terms of how consumers find, curate and watch branded content, and this is putting tremendous pressure on traditional ad agencies,” said ShareAbility’s CEO Tim Staples. “Succeeding at YouTube requires an expertise that most general ad agencies don’t have, and the smart ones are not willing to risk a $50 million account for a $500,000 piece of content.”

But ad agencies do have their place, and a very important one at that. “Where the production companies can fall short is if the brand is in need of a greater strategic vision, including distribution and how you’re going to get in front of your target audience,” said Rapt Media’sErika Trautman. “I have seen production companies lose business because they can’t compete at that level.”

Web Series

A good example of a brand that worked with both an ad agency and a digital studio comes from Subway. The restaurant chain used production house Content and Co. to create its five-episode comedy web series called Summer With Cimorelli (starring YouTube a cappella group Cimorelli). However, both Content and Co. and Subway left the in-store and larger broadcast promotions to ad agencies.

[youtube id=”Wx9BWbmi40w” align=”center” autoplay=”no” maxwidth=”700″ grow=”yes”]

While some campaigns will require the assistance of creative agencies, it’s highly likely we’ll see more brands going straight to digital production studios in the future. It looks like this is becoming a trend, as more and more production houses are taking on more tasks and get close to being ad agencies.

The Periodic Table of Storytelling Will Help You

Attention everyone: We have found it. We have found the Holy Grail of online screenwriting/storytelling resources. If you’re a screenwriter and/or a complete glutton for geeking out, like we are, you need to stop what you’re doing immediately and check out Design Through Storytelling’s Periodic Table of Storytelling. Which — is exactly what it sounds like — a collection of story tropes organized by purpose and name. Just like the original periodic table designed by Dmitri Mendeleev.

Sometimes you find things during your internet adventures that make your heart swell with appreciation and nerdy delight for the glory of cyberspace. This is by far one of the coolest things we’ve ever found. Also it doesn’t hurt that its an incredibly helpful compendium of storytelling knowledge that is easier (and more fun) to navigate that flipping back to the table of contents in a screenwriting book.

Created by artist James Harris, The Periodic Table of Storytelling is designed just like the tabular arrangement of the chemical elements, except instead of being organized in groups of alkali metals and noble gases, you’ve got plot devices and archetypes. Harris included everything, like the different villain and hero archetypes, character modifiers, story structure, and setting/laws/plots.

And if that’s not enough, Harris includes 10 “simple story molecules” that can be formed when you combine certain story elements. So, if you’re a science nerd (redundant) and a screenwriter, you’ll just be in absolute heaven when you start playing around with this. Let us know what you come up with and how the periodic table of storytelling is helping you tell better stories!

 

Periodic Table of Storytelling

Periodic Table of Storytelling

What do brands actually stand for.

The first order of business working on a project is to write down the truest thing you can say about your product or brand. You need to find the central truth about your brand and about the whole category – the central human truth.

It’s unlikely the truest thing will be mentioned on the client brief. But you can hear it being talked about on blogs or read it in the customer reviews on Amazon. Sometimes the truest thing is what the client wants to say; more often, it’s not. Products are the clients’ children and it’s no surprise they want to talk about its amazing grades and how it’s captain of the football team.

Bringing truth into the picture, however, is the single best thing an ad agency can do for a brand. The agency can bring an objective assessment of a brand’s strengths and weaknesses and if it’s a good agency, they’ll discover a brand’s most relevant truth and then bring that alive for people.

This is not a science and we all see different truths in a brand, but more often than not, we’ll agree when someone hits on a real truth. Here are four brands and my personal perspective on the truest things about each one.

• Krystal burgers: I’m not sure it’s food, but I want 24 of them.

• Crocs: The client will say “comfortable.” Correct answer is “ugly.”

• eHarmony: “If anyone finds out we met online, we will both just DIE .”

• Canadian Club: Isn’t that the old school rotgut that dads drink in the basement while watching hockey?

Here’s the weird part. Clients will spend massive amounts of time and money to uncover these brand truths and then – frightened by the results – proceed to cover them all back up with B.S. (“Let’s put some lipstick on this pig.”) But marketing sleights-of-hand are kinda like the garage mechanic coming out to tell you, “Well, I couldn’t fix the brakes so I made your horn louder.”

Clients will often deny these truths and cling tenaciously to what they want you to believe about their brand. The problem is they don’t own the brand and they don’t own the truth: customers do. So it isn’t surprising what happened, for example, when Las Vegas tried to rebrand itself as a “family-friendly” destination in the mid ‘90s – huge fail. Fortunately, R&R Partners came along and helped the client tell the truth: the city is One Big Bad-Ass Party. And “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” came to life.

There are ads to be written all around the edges of any product. But we’ll be talking about getting to the ideas written right from the essence of the thing. In Hoopla, Alex Bogusky was quoted, “We try to find that long-neglected truth in a product and give it a hug.” Notice he said they find this truth, they do not invent it. Because nobody can’t invent truth. The best ideas are truth brought to light in fresh, new ways.

Remember, we’re talking about truth here, not what a client or a creative director wants you to say. Amir Kassaei, CCO of DDB Worldwide, put it this way:

Our [industry’s] only reason for existence is to find or create a relevant truth – and, to be honest, not only to the people we’re talking to and want to sell something to, but to ourselves. Great ideas that change behaviour happen only when they’re based on a relevant truth. That’s when they make an impact on societies and cultures and add value to people’s lives. But as people get more connected and live a more advanced lifestyle, they’ll be more critical of bullshit. People know more than ever, faster than ever. And that is a great thing because it will force us to be more critical of bullshit. As an industry, we have to stop falling into the trap of phoney ideas, of superficial gloss that looks great in an awards jury room but does not matter in the real world.

So there you go: that is one of the smartest things I ever learned about advertising. Interestingly, getting to the truest thing is essential in any kind of creative enterprise, whether you’re making a painting, an ad, or a music video. But I digress.

Thanks,

Mark Fenske, Veteran Copywriter

The creative migration

The Times are a-Changin’… and have been for a while.

Read on to hear the thoughts of renowned marketing genius, Luke Sullivan, on how creatives are moving away from the AD agency and into the clients and production company’s offices.

In the hangar-like building, recruiters from 151 blue-chip corporations awaited the students’ arrival, in booths set up to attract the next generation of copywriters, art directors, animators, designers and coders. Hundreds of tables were spread out like a Turkish bazaar of free pencils, thumb drives, and branded schwag, defended by only a thin line of recruiters who, when the doors burst open at 10am, were quickly overrun by the unemployed hordes.

There they were: 151 real companies, from Nickelodeon to Amazon to Abercrombie & Fitch, all bearing tickets to real jobs that paid real money. (I thought about inquiring if “Fitch” was in attendance, but the line was too long.)

The thing is, fairs like this – and schools like SCAD – simply didn’t exist when I went to college. Me? I graduated with a nearly useless liberal arts degree. Well, I suppose it is possible I would’ve been snapped up, had there been any companies looking for skinny chain-smokers to write term papers on 17th-century Russian poetry. But these kids? They came armed with real skills. With the ability not only to think creatively, but to make stuff; to actually do stuff.

Companies still want people with ideas, yes, but the days of “I’m just an Idea Guy” (two finger guns pointing) are gone. Making your idea get up and walk around the room, that’s the ticket. And it’s a ticket that’s getting kids into more and more places these days, and not just the usual line-up of ad agencies.

“We’re no longer competing just with other advertising agencies,” says Bob Jeffrey, of J. Walter Thompson. “Now there’s also Facebook, Google, Vice, Maker Studios and a whole bunch of other content players we compete with.” Amy Hoover, president of recruitment company Talent Zoo, says almost half the creative jobs out there today are not at agencies. They’re at big Silicon Valley powerhouses and cool little start-ups. They’re also at in-house agencies at the big-box companies; your Home Depots, your Targets, your Staples. Their money’s just as green as any agency’s and people have long, happy, wonderful careers in the in-house industry.

I know it for a fact. Recently I gave a day-long seminar at Lowe’s in-house agency up in Mooresville, North Carolina. My host was ECD, Brad Stephens, who left an agency career (Mullen, most recently) to oversee a huge team of creatives in a little town on the shore of Lake Norman. Yeah, the town’s small, but Brad’s job description on his LinkedIn isn’t.

Currently, I’m managing multiple creative teams and several agencies as we create and manage the various aspects of the Lowe’s brand. Recent accomplishments include relaunch of Lowe’s private decor brand, allen + roth, and a successful storewide wayfinding & communication signage redesign. Key responsibilities include oversight of national consumer, store associate, public relations and recruitment communications, as well as development of retail seasonal campaigns.

A huge brand in a small town. In fact, I could hear birdsong at lunch in the company’s outdoor cafeteria.

Adam’s Outdoor Advertising is another good example of great places to work outside the usual list of agencies. Todd Turner, their corporate CD, in from Charleston, South Carolina, was recruiting for several open positions. “Our teams are small, so my hires have to do it all – production, writing, design, art direction. And not a day goes by there isn’t at least one meaty conceptual project to work on.”

Manning the booth with Todd was Jon Riley, a SCAD ad graduate who showed me some recent work from Adams. One was this OBIE award winner for a divorce attorney. Nice.

Bottom line is this. The job market isn’t just ad agencies anymore. For kids who know how to think creatively, and who know how to make stuff, it’s much much bigger.