Monday, 10 September 2012


This week Max Bygraves died. 

He was a comedian, entertainer and impresario and was huge a few decades ago. Think Michael Parkinson + Michael McIntyre + Jonathan Ross and you’ll get the idea.  And this was his catchphrase. He was was always telling a story.

Now storytelling has invaded the business scene. We no longer have ‘business strategies’. We have ‘corporate narratives’ (although they look much the same and with a shudder I wonder what Lord of the Rings would look like written by McKinsey – ‘Frodo Objectives, SWOT analysis of the Hobbits etc.)

The real power of the story is shown in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs which teaches more about what really happened at Apple and why (ultimately) it worked.

  The story about Job’s passion for product and that belief that he was at the intersection of technology and art tells it all as does his love of design. Dewys Landon, a designer, expressed what Apple achieved beautifully when he said;

Our job is to give the client, on time and on cost, not what he wants, but what he never dreamed he wanted; and when he gets it, he recognizes it as something he wanted all the time."

And then there’s Madmen, the TV story of 60’s and 70’s advertising – was it really like that Don? Don Draper lit a Marlboro and thought wistfully for a while.

No. In Britain it was much better and much worse. Sex, drugs and rock’n roll. The skirts were short and the tempers shorter. Account Directors had races in their Porsches down Park Lane. Sexual harassment was the norm. People lost days of their life in an alcoholic haze and still did great ads. And that was the real point to the story. Great, brave, funny and new advertising that clients never dreamt they wanted and then realised they wanted all the time.

Poor boring madman Don. He should have settled on being an accountant.

The real story of breakthrough success is always accompanied by excess. The bankers at their peak, British advertising, Australian cricket at its pomp, Tracey Emin, Gordon Ramsay, and Christopher Hitchens. True genius seems to burn life’s candle at both ends (and in the middle.)

The story of success, endeavour and risk is usually exciting, fun and a journey of surprises.

I wanna tell you a story because stories look truth in the face.

Stories are about people and as the Gradgrind of advertising Martin Sorrell tells us:
“All business decisions are marketing decisions and all marketing decisions are about people”
And all people are into stories. Because that’s what life is – one big story and not a spreadsheet.

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