For the very first time

14th August 2014

There is a scene in American Beauty that is a transfixing emotional journey.

Carolyn (Annette Bening), a grasping, anxiety-ridden real estate agent has spent a day showing a property which refuses to move. The rejections mount with comic bounce, until she is alone, closing the drab curtains on a house unwanted.

Her face contorts and we laugh at her and this, her sorry state, mostly of her own making.

As the camera slowly moves in, we must alter our response. Carolyn is beginning to crumble; to fall apart. We are witnessing her human pain, and we can no longer laugh.

I fell in love with the fractured character of Carolyn in that moment. Since that scene, I have paid the closest attention to Annette Bening.

Just yesterday, and through the curation of one of Robin Williams’ final Facebook posts (bizarre but true), I came across a revealing interview where Bening explained her approach to her profession.

One point she made, regarding the reading of scripts, stood out beyond all others: “The really important thing is the first read, because it’s the only time you get it. There’s only one time that you don’t know what the story is”

I find this a stimulating thought for those of us who aspire to beaver on marketing’s Saville Row. We seek to become the tailors of brands – cutting their fabric on the bias; carefully stitching their invisible hemlines; demanding that the fit be snug and flattering.

We only ever get to tell our stories for the first time, once. There is no second chance to make a first impression, as Fitzwilliam Darcy learnt to his chagrin.

Much of marketing seems caught into the Buzz Feed model of narcotic repetition. The game is about demanding time rather than attention – and the metrics would suggest that holding people captive is more valued than making a lasting impression.

If we plan that our 30″ adverts should be seen perhaps 7 times by the same consumer, at some level we reveal a lack of confidence in the stories we tell.

For fear of not making an impact, we will pay money to force an impact. After all, if you say it often enough, it becomes true. No?

The times they are a-changing.

I am drawn to brands that choose wisely the stories they tell, command their audience, curate the medium and context.

I am drawn to brands audacious enough to believe that, as the camera moves in and its message is revealed, an audience will be left altered by the experience.

A human truth, told with authenticity, becomes indelible from its very first utterance.

Brian McIntyre © 2014

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