Sharing tales around the campfire is an old Australian tradition. It used to involve a billy boiling, a loaf of damper cooking, and someone blowing the odd chord on the harmonica. Nowadays, the fire is the BBQ, which friends gather around with sparkling in hand while yabbies' grill and Bose speakers blast.
And yet, the concept is the same – people gathering to share stories from their lives or those of people they admire, debate the issues of the day, and mull the issues shaping their futures – all from their own perspective.
Australian advertisers are tapping this long local tradition to reinterpret the global trend of storytelling in advertising. The big brash ad that worked when broadcasting to disconnected strangers on TV, is no longer effective in the more intimate digital communities. Now ads that work are more about sharing stories the way friends do. They've slipped into something more casual, more real. Instead of being mini-blockbusters, they take us behind the scenes. They give us the insight into people, places and events to help us better navigate our own lives.
Here are five examples of great Australian storytelling gone digital for brands:
When Unilever's Toni & Guy wanted to build a stronger bond with customers while reflecting its core brand values, it decided the best way was via the braided tails of influential digital Australian fashion bloggers. Working with 20 influential bloggers, the brand created the coffeetable book Blogged & Bound and a series of mini-documentary videos where each writer candidly shares his or her individual inspirations and style – from classic glamour to street style with a twist. As Jamie Wdziekonski, editor of cult blog Oh Jamie, says, "Every morning when someone wakes up, they're a blank canvas and they kind of paint themselves with their own clothes." Like a collection of short stories, the fashion bloggers let Toni & Guy's core brand express itself in many different styles, as it does on the salon floor.
Jessica Watson was 16 when she sailed the world solo – and hooked the heart of her country. How did she cope out there alone? Microsoft provides a view into Jessica's world to launch Windows 8. Jessica tells us once she was "this scared kid who didn't like adventure". Her turning point? A bedtime story about a young boy who sailed around the world called, Jessie Martin. The rest, as they say, is history. Jessica's message fits with Microsoft's brand: Extraordinary people are "just ordinary and anyone can be one of those people if they set their minds to it."
The Nokia Lumia 900 ad takes us into the slipstream of a day in the life of Aussie pro surfer Laura Enever to ask: Can you live without your phone? Starting at the crack of dawn, we tail her as she captures on her phone the sky's first golden red ribbons, before heading to a beach to wax up before catching some waves – texting and calling friends before and afterwards. Throughout a day of three modeling photo shoots, and a hairdressing appointment to tame her long sun-bleached locks, her phone is always in hand and on ear. No, Laura can't live without her phone is the message, but more interesting is the glimpse the ad provides into the life of this golden girl of the waves.
It is Australian actress Toni ("You're terrible, Muriel!") Collette's simple, honest reading of M&C Saatchi Andy Fleming's Ode to CAN for a Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) ad that really reminds us the power of stories. What's more, this ad shows storytelling advertising works. Mozo's "People's Choice Awards," which rates bank customer satisfaction, found CBA improved the most of the major Australian banks in the past year, with its popularity picking up after the "CAN" branding campaign launched.
What better way to show Australia more about its tail end, Tasmania, than through tall tales? Whether it's the ghost stories of convict gangs who once inhabited the island or stories from food producers now creating some of the world's finest cheeses and gourmet delights there, Tourism Tasmania's latest online campaign uses stories to reveal the unchallenged purity and beauty of Australia's apple isle. The stories focus around the passions that lure travellers over the Tasman, including food, culture, nature, adventure and history, and use an interactive map animated with the interchangeable travel itineraries that highlight what Tasmania has to offer, through words, images and videos.