Storytelling with Clay Prewitt of The Tombras Group

Event Wrap-Up: Lunch & Learn, Sept. 17, 2015

Earlier in the fall we welcomed Clay Prewitt to AAFNETN. As Associate Creative Director at the Tombras Group, Clay has scripted and produced award-winning spots. Raised on stories at his grandfather’s knee, Clay’s now a master storyteller himself, sometimes through songs and sometimes through slogans, sometimes in many words and sometimes in very few, but always with the ability to connect people through the experiences and emotions of the stories he tells.

Clay with guitar opening Sept. 17, 2015 AAFNETN event.

As attendees filled the room and gathered around Clay, it felt more like he was the one welcoming us. He broke the ice with his guitar and a cover of John Prine’s “That’s the Way the World Goes ‘Round”. Then we were treated to several humorous stories from his childhood. Stories first told to Clay by his grandfather. Clay poetically described how his grandfather used his wit, quick thinking and verbal rhythm to tell a successful story.

“Granddad used crescendos and pregnant pauses; he knew when to talk and when to say nothing at all.”

So how does storytelling relate to advertising?

Every new campaign is the opportunity to tell a story. When telling your stories, take a cue from Granddad:

  1. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer. (Granddad always put himself into the story.)
  2. If you don’t believe it, no one else will. Your job is to convince the consumer to believe what you say.
  3. It ain’t for everybody. If you’re going to take a chance to reach the right people, you’re also taking a chance that you’re going to offend others. Some people will like it, and some won’t appreciate it at all.
  4. Know when to shut up. Resist the urge to add more – edit yourself. Sometimes you have to let silence do the talking, like the pregnant pauses Granddad used so well. Sometimes you don’t have to say anything at all to tell a story. Clay recalled the ‘Shopping Cart’ spot from Volkswagen’s ‘Driver’s Wanted’ campaign which did just that. He credits it as the first spot to attract his attention to advertising as a method for telling stories.
  5. Don’t take yourself too seriously. To illustrate this example, Clay shared a story. Granddad wore a Member’s Only jacket – apparently long after the trend had passed. When Clay asked why, his grandfather responded, “That’s what was in style the last time I cared.”

The moral of the story?

No matter what aspect of marketing or advertising we’re in, stories matter. From the creative brief to the creative pitch, from the drawing board to the board room, it’s stories that connect, persuade, and influence people. Good stories accomplish great things, and whatever our job titles may be, in reality, we’re all aspiring storytellers.