Reinventing storytelling and dealing with modern consumption habits

In a rather classy venue, ironically nestled under a railway bridge close to London’s Borough market, during Social Media Week (Sept 11-15), I went along to discover how major brands, publishers and agencies are working to reinvent storytelling and how they plan to deal with ever-changing modern consumption habits.

A diverse panel helped jumpstart discussions. Luisa Mauro from LADbible-owned site, Pretty 52, sat alongside Charles Ubaghs from Global, and OMD UK’s XMP digital manager Charles McNeill, armed with a media perspective and case studies from arguably the greatest storyteller of all, Walt Disney himself.

I went to quite a few talks this year at SMW (to the dislike of my liver but the benefit of my brain) and above all else retained two clear points. which were echoed by nearly all of those presenting; that of personalized experiences and ensuring your audiences was the right ones. Unsurprisingly, these two points formed the backbone of the talk and some of the guiding principles that kept coming up during the week.

Don’t talk to the masses – get up close and personal.

Millennials and Gen-Zers came up in conversation – as these buzzword age groups always seem to – and highlighted the need to address the boom in mobile consumption and the many mediums that younger audiences use. The new screen is the mobile screen and it’s key for brands to stop employing old TVC habits of marketing and embrace mobile-ready content campaigns. It’s by using new social media and tech platforms in creative and out of the box ways to deliver content, says Ubaghs, that will help keep storytelling at the heart of digital content and maintain that coveted essence of authenticity that brands seem to all want.

We’ve been hearing this from Facebook too: best practice recommendations suggest that the effectiveness and resonance of content is largely dependent on whether the content is optimized for social media or not. Largely, brands that are still opening up to being more present on social media need to ensure that they don’t simply slap a traditional, long format TVC on their social channels and instead re-edit and re-cut content to suit the social platform they are deploying their content on.

McNeill also says that it’s essential that content is digested by the right audiences, and that different KPIs are associated with each group – this seems to be particularly valuable to the Walt Disney Company. At the heart of his talk was the importance of custom campaigns for each audience, thereby allowing the story to flow as naturally as possible.

Storytelling is an integral part of the work that we at OMD Create, a specialist social and content arm, undertake for The Walt Disney Company. Leading on social analytics across 26 markets with more than 17-million combined fans, we have huge volumes of content we report on and help develop in conjunction with Disney. Moreover, we operate within the vast Kid’s Entertainment space which this year to date has generated more than 15-billion views alone. What we find across multiple content themes is that telling a story is as every bit relevant to an unboxing video as it is to a song compilation; this is how we captivate our audiences and ensure they always come back for more.

Talk with your audience, not to them.

As marketers, we sometimes get too focused on driving results and forget about the consumers we’re trying to impact. a human audience that’s not focused on CPC metric but about how a brand makes them feel and what a brand can do for them. McNeill adds that we need to ensure we know what content has already been served to our custom audiences – have they previously re-engaged with our stories and if so, to what extent does this dampen their opinion of us? We strive at OMD Create to do exactly this, by keeping our partners such as Facebook close to us when working on the optimization of campaigns to keep our metrics close, and our audiences closer.

What all panelists did solidly agree on was on the primary way of measuring how successful their storytelling has been. Their golden metric as described by the moderator was shares. Why? In the eyes of the panelists, people sharing content was synonymous to putting their name on it, to regarding it as something worthy of their own friends and audience and something that has generated enough interest to spark conversation.

So what about the future? It’s a space that marketers can win in if agencies are able to help their clients tell stories while using insights to help guide content. Also if they are able to ensure that this content is customized to suit the audiences they are trying to reach while at the same time embracing ever-changing technology. The only limitations lie within ourselves, whether we dare experiment with the tools and process we have in place.

We’re not always going to win, but we won’t lose by keeping on our toes.


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About Author

Stef Koutroumanidis

I'm a Social & Content Strategist at OMD EMEA, working within Create, a content and experiences hub. I specialise in social strategy. I run analytics for a range of international clients, gathering social listening and data for pitches and retainer work, pushing forward OMD's capability in this space and moving at the speed of culture. Of the most rewarding work is leading social performance reporting and digital trend analysis for The Walt Disney Company across EMEA and working with Barilla, the largest pasta maker in the world develop and activate a social content strategy for Roger Federer.

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