POV (Perspective)
There Is A Life After Commercials
  • Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018
Massimo Martinotti

A few weeks ago I sent an e-mail to introduce someone to an old friend who has produced TV commercials for many years. Since I had not spoken with him for quite some time, I felt I had to give him an update about my recent activities and I wrote something like: “Since last time we met I decided not to do commercials anymore. I started a new company to bring the power of stories to the business and marketing world and I am getting a lot of good clients who realize that finding the right story for their brands is what they have to do.”

Three minutes later I received his reply: “Nice to hear from you. Glad to hear there is a life after commercials.”

Of course there is a life after commercials.

I produced and directed commercials for over 25 years for agencies based both in Europe and the Americas and I shot in over 30 countries. I have been lucky enough to listen to assistant directors scream “action!” in dozens of languages and to shoot in the most amazing locations across all latitudes.

But a few years ago I decided I wanted to do something really exciting using the set of skills I had acquired during my long career. What were those skills? What had I done for so many years in so many places? Telling stories to a lot of different audiences.

After first reading “Convergence Culture” (Henry Jenkins, New York University Press, New York) in 2006, I became very interested in transmedia storytelling and in the power of stories. Human minds are hardwired for stories and storytelling--it has been with us collectively as a species since the very beginning. I quickly realized the unbelievable possibilities that stories offer to the business leaders of the 21st century because stories are the sharpest weapons they can use to capture the minds and hearts of people. I also realized that many business schools still don’t teach their graduates powerful story building and that the strategies used in marketing are mostly based on theories that have not been updated for quite a long time.

I began to understand that leaders should learn how to find and embody those latent stories that reside in the hearts of their employees, clients, investors, consumers and so on. I looked around and I didn’t find any coherent system designed to achieve those goals so I asked myself, “What if we can create a methodology to do exactly that?” And we began working on building a system designed to bring the power of stories to the business world and give that weapon to CEOs and CMOs.

It took almost two years but we finally did it. At first some visionary clients, leaders of start-ups or innovation-based companies, hired us to find stories so powerful that they could become their strategies. It did not take long for large clients such as Nestle or Barilla to recognize the power of what we were doing.

Most of our clients, after we accomplished our task of finding and building storyworlds for their brands, began asking us to train their ad agencies in the use of those narrative tools to craft their campaigns. We developed several tools to help the agencies understand the storyworld we had created and to define the timeframe and the steps the story needs in order to produce a real transformation of the brand itself and of all audiences.

Most agencies enjoyed the process of translating those brands’ storyworlds into a series of actions capable of engaging emotionally and rationally all audiences. Now, four years later, we are working in several countries and our set of clients is growing by the day.

Is there a life after commercials?  The first commercial was aired, if I recall correctly, on July 1, 1941--over 77 years ago. That’s nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands of years since humans became story animals.  As humans we all live immersed in stories during the day, and we dream stories at night. Through them, we have shared ideas, values, and behaviors for millennia. 

Creating the bridge between stories and strategies has become my life after commercials. 

About the author

Massimo Martinotti is partner, meaning creator at Starfire Effect. His is also a past president of the AICP’s Florida chapter.

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