Be a good storyteller, don’t worry about the logo

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I saw the most beautiful poster at the Jaipur Lit Fest last year. One amongst several on the wall outside the venue, it had a pink bucket with a pink mug, set against a pink wall, on a broken grey floor. There was no headline on it, no cocky web link, and, as I discovered after scouring each and every one of its 27x41 inches, no logo.

What was its purpose? What had been the brief for it? What was it trying to sell? The rabid, numbers-driven, strategy-oriented marketeer in me had no idea what was going on.

And then it struck me.

Advertising isn't a noun. It's a verb. It's not every poster. It's just what most posters do. And the sight of a poster doing something else was a rare and beautiful one.

Today, more storytellers are employed in advertising than any other profession. And, quite regrettably, most of them are convinced that advertising is all they can do. Their finest ideas, therefore, find themselves dismissed in cigarette breaks by cynical colleagues, get shot down because they don't fit into the contours of some strategy deck, are relegated to PowerPoint presentations hidden away in stacks of dusty back-up disks or, in a few rare instances, end up being grafted with a logo that doesn't really belong, in a disingenuous effort to score a point at Cannes (or one of the many other occasions of self-congratulation we of 'the agency world' devise to make ourselves feel less trivial).

That's a pity, because that's not why we got into advertising. As seduced as we might have been by the business, we were writers before we were copywriters, graphic designers before we were art directors, just plain and simple interested in hearing, sharing or making stories before we got into this industrial complex that mass manufactured them on monthly retainers or project-based contracts.

We're so busy hustling stories for A, B and C, that we're forgetting the pure, unadulterated joy of simply telling stories because we love to. Not only is this making our well of stories go dry, it's also destroying the quality of advertising in the world around it. Once there's nothing left in the well, it'll show in what you get out of it. Old ideas rehashed, client briefs pretending to be stories, trending cliches being flogged to death (try not skipping your YouTube pre-roll once in a while and you'll know what I'm talking about).

This little poster told me more was possible. That all you have to do to tell a story is, well, to tell the story. That you don't need a big budget to put your idea out there. That, if the piece actually works, a little, teensy-weensy bit of this world will be the better off for it. And that, right there, is the best a story can do for itself, and we, as its humble pioneers, can do for it.

Write yours down. Pitch it to as many people as you can. Try and recruit collaborators. If no one's interested, sit down and do what you can to bring it to life yourself. Get it out of your head and into the world out there. Let it thrive, be shouted down, or just be forgotten. Let it at least have a chance. And then do it all over again. As you, young advertising person, make stories, you'll find that they, in turn, will make you a storyteller.

And for God's sake, don't worry about the logo.