I pod, therefore I am: take one

We don’t half wang on about storytelling in the research industry. Well in most industries, really – it’s everywhere. But we’re supposed to be better at it than others. Writing debriefs and ‘telling the story’ is the hardest part of what we do and, having spent another weekend wrestling a story out of a confusing mess of conversations, I’m struggling to remind myself that this is something I’m supposed to excel at.

Telling the story was the biggest learning curve I faced when dipping my toes into the heady world of ‘can’t beat them? Join them’ podcasting. (See my previous blog about my new research ‘toy’.) I quietly went ahead and produced a pilot back in January. I chose a client brand I love – one that’s been generous to Razor over the years – and tried using audio to tell their consumers’ stories in a way that works differently to debriefs and videos.

And boy is it hard. I’m on the cusp of having a second try and here are a few lessons I’ve learnt:

  • You can’t just ‘wing’ the story. It’s all very well assuming that a story will simply emerge from a spontaneous conversation (as spontaneous as any conversation can be when you’re trying desperately hard not to interject with pointless hums and haws). If you don’t know what story you’re trying to tell in advance, you might just find the story takes longer to emerge. Plan more.
  • Push the boundaries. I’m no therapist. As a moderator I’ve often been in a position where I’ve hit an emotional nerve in a conversation and the professional in me acknowledges it and then moves on. But if you do that when capturing an interview for a podcast you’re likely to stop the tape just as it gets interesting. I now know to plan and tease out those moments of raw emotion and not shy away from letting them happen. We have the interviewee’s consent and we’re not there to just listen – we’re there to tell.
  • It takes time (and two). I had no idea that an editor would bring such value to the party! This time round I’ve brought mine in at the beginning so he can help me shape the content before I even start. He will instinctively know what textures I need to weave in to make a better listen.

But the most important thing I’ve learnt is what I should have known going in to this experiment. And that’s that any good story must have some drama. Something has to happen. If nothing happens, if there’s no narrative arc…then it’s nothing better than an eavesdrop.

Here’s a snippet from my first attempt. I might as well put it out there. I’ll embark on round two and let you know whether I’ve learnt from my mistakes.

 

‘Nothing beats a Londoner’

An advert has generated a spirit I haven’t felt since the 2012 Olympics; one of genuine pride and excitement to be a Londoner. And I’m not even its target audience!

Nike wanted to reconnect with young Londoners to demonstrate that the American superbrand really ‘gets’ them and is aligned with their values. To achieve this, it created a three-minute film that tells the stories of everyday young Londoners aspiring to be athletes. There’s an obligatory smattering of famous sporting and musical cameos thrown in – but they are not the stars of this show.

Judging by the overall positive response on social media and the 2.8m views on You Tube since its launch six days ago, it’s clearly hitting the mark.

So why does it work? A myriad of reasons no doubt. I can’t speak for Gen Z but here’s what jumps out at me:

  • Celebration
    The focus is on young Londoners themselves, not on the Nike brand. The film not only showcases a diverse group in terms of ethnicity, but also in terms of the broad variety of sports covered and, importantly, who we see playing them (think gender neutrality). Nike is celebrating the diversity and individuality of London’s Gen Z through their athletic pursuits.

  • Authenticity
    They’ve done a really good job of making it feel authentic; something we know Gen Z expects and demands of brands these days. The true-to-life locations (i.e. the streets of Peckham), the grainy texture of the shots (by using 16mm film) and the use of 258 real young Londoners all help to capture a genuine depiction of London youth culture as we know it.
  • Energy
    The pace of the film creates a momentum akin to the nervous energy you feel at the start of a match or when you’re about to perform; that sense of potential achievement when you’ve been working so hard to reach your goals. This inspirational energy is powerful and no doubt speaks to the aspirational and can-do attitude of London’s youth.

Nicely done, Nike. 

Calling all 6-16 year-olds!

Action

Do you have a child aged between 6 and 16 years who’d be interested in going to see various films or visit exhibitions, festivals, and retail stores?

We’re on the lookout for smart, chatty, and confident characters to represent British kids by sharing with us their opinions on a variety of topics and events we’ve got planned throughout the year. 

If selected, tasks would include making short films, taking photos, and completing online diaries. Parents/guardians will receive a gift voucher as a thank you for their child’s time. 

To find out more about this opportunity, please get in touch with [email protected] .

A word from our sponsors

Two Super Bowl ads made me LOL at my desk this morning. That’s good going considering last year’s dominant political theme. It seems that most advertisers have since sensed the mood and opted for a safer, more light-hearted feel in general.

I doubt I’ve even scratched the surface when it comes to watching them all. But I helpfully categorised some of them to share with team Razor:

Funny coz it’s true
Amazon – Alexa loses her voice and is replaced by bat-crazy celebs. Cue chaos. But it’s the six-second silence that makes me go all <insert face-with-tears-of-joy emoji here>.

Guac World – An avocado cult, first world problems, and a dirty protest. What’s not to love?

Spoof
Tourism Australia – I deep-sighed last week when I saw what I thought was a trailer for a Crocodile Dundee reboot. Imagine the relief – on a global scale – when the big reveal happened. Fair dinkum. (But seriously…enough with the reboots, Hollywood!)

Tide
– It’s impossible to play ‘guess the ad’ when you’re playing catch-up on YouTube but I’d imagine these spots were fun to watch ‘live’. Tide took the bloke from Stranger Things, threw him into as many ad scenarios you can imagine, and he pulled them off brilliantly. Naturally, Twitter went mad for him. And just look at those clean clothes!

Rivalry
Sprint and Wendy’s brought the sass by taking shots at their direct competitors. I’m all about the robots, but can take or leave the beef.   

Heart-warming
Budweiser – Turns out they’ve been shipping water to disaster areas since 1988. Of course, Anheuser-Busch isn’t the only company to provide this level of service. But when you consider the devastation caused by recent hurricanes and wildfires, it’s comforting to know that certain multi-billion dollar companies are doing something substantial to help those in need.

Eh?
Toyota – A beautifully inspiring video about Paralympian, Lauren Woolstencroft…with a logo at the end of it. No car, but mobility is the key word apparently. (I’ll let them off because I enjoyed their ‘One team’ ad.) 

Honourable mentions
NFL – I probably would have loved this Dirty Dancing spoof about touchdown celebrations had He-Man and Skeletor not taken to the floor over here already for Money Supermarket. Sorry, fellas.

Doritos & Mountain Dew – Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman lip-synching to Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliott respectively. Nuff said.

I pod, therefore I am

I’m a self-confessed telly addict. I’ve a penchant for photography. I occasionally buy art and I’m not a naysayer when it comes to PowerPoint. Basically, I’m cool with visuals.

But spoken-word audio has a hold over me that none of the above does. It’s my solace, my constant companion, my daily diversion. It has a language and tonality that the visually vivid mediums don’t. 

Podcasts are my medium. You’re never waiting for something to happen. Listening to a podcast is a constant cultural update, a chance to learn, a way of being exposed to the world through different lenses.

I trade favourites with friends and colleagues; quickly subscribing when I get a recommendation and unsubscribing, just as quickly, if the first episode doesn’t grab me. I get pod anxiety. I don’t like having too big a backlog to contend with. I like to keep up.

It shames me a little that I have a preference for American podcasts – I feel disloyal to the British accent. My preference for American male presenters makes me feel even more disloyal. I hate female presenters’ propensity for vocal fry – something I learned about…from a podcast.

Recent favourites, despite my aforementioned preferences, is the R4 podcast ‘Fortunately…’ with Fi Glover and Jane Garvey. It’s truly astonishingly brilliant. Just two women chatting. Recommended, and quickly ditched, are two other women chatting; Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton from ‘The High Low’. (If I’m honest, they lost me at ‘Pandora and Dolly’ – can’t bear them). I’m also loving ‘Atlanta Monster’ (yep, more true crime), ‘Gravy’ (food tales from the American south) and will never abandon ‘The Food Programme’ or ‘The Archers’.

This is all leading somewhere… 

I’ve always wanted my own ‘research toy’. By which I mean a ‘thing’ that isn’t quite work but isn’t not work. A thing that would give me a chance to play, to experiment, and the freedom to make mistakes in my own time, not that of my clients’ (yet, anyway!)  A gift to me to celebrate ten years of Razor and a gift to a client who’s been loyal and fabulous to work with for most of those ten years.

I’ve made my first podcast.

How’s that for a cliffhanger?

Stay tuned for my next blog to find out how it went.