The Post-Advertising Age: Jim Boulton, Story Worldwide


Sophie Doran | April 27, 2011

Jim Boulton explains why marketing is no longer in the hands of brands and how the consumer has come to power in the post-advertising age

The first in a series of conversations with our Corporate Members, where we will explore and discuss the future of the luxury industry, we spoke with Jim Boulton, the UK based partner of global content marketing agency Story Worldwide.

After a six year career as a management consultant, Jim ‘acted on a niggling suspicion that the Internet was the most sigificant invention since the bicycle’ and embarked on a Masters Degree at the Hypermedia Research Centre. Following his studies, alongside chief creative office Lars Hemming Jorgensen, Jim established Large, a highly successful Internet consultancy that went on to deliver benchmark websites for some of the world’s top brands, including the groundbreaking Bang & Olufsen site and a series of audacious sites for Agent Provocateur.

In 2007 Large merged with Story Worldwide to create the world’s first post-advertising agency, an agency that believes consumers exist in an opt-in culture, where the only way to get positive attention is to create great media – desired content that is relevant, informing, entertaining and on-brand.

The ethos of Story, as per CEO Kirk Cheyfitz, is that ‘the only messages anyone will see and hear, are the messages they choose to see and hear’. How then as a marketing agency, can you continue to stay relevant?

Today, the only way brands can connect with customers and prospects is by genuinely adding value to their lives, either by providing a useful service or by telling rewarding stories. Brands have no choice. Messages that aren’t valued will be ignored. Traditional marketing agencies struggle here, as they start with the message the brand wants to communicate and then work marketing ideas around them. We turn this on its’ head.

Our starting point is that of a journalist, first and foremost, we are on the side of the audience. We actively listen to consumers and discover the types and styles of content they are interested in and then see where, and if, the brand message best fits. By offering content that wins an audience’s attention and, crucially, stimulates sharing and positive conversations we create an intelligent system, which shows what content people respond to and informs the editorial strategy for those individuals’ peers.

“ the message now has to be less about quick sales and more about engagement, loyalty and advocacy ”

What are some of the key messages luxury brands are trying to communicate in the current climate?

We believe that every brand has a story to tell and that those that tell it best, win. Often it is the luxury brands that have the best stories, which I would argue is the very reason they have the right to claim the status of a luxury brand in the first place. In the current climate, where consumers are more discerning than ever, it is essential for luxury brands to communicate their stories as authentically and generously as possible.

How has their message changed now that they are engaging digital?

Simply put, the message now has to be less about quick sales and more about engagement, loyalty and advocacy. This means creating a joined up conversation that people want to share. Brands are often guilty of trying too hard at each touch point. For example, it’s very difficult to sell a product or service via Twitter but Twitter can be successfully used to direct people towards a piece of branded content. From this piece of branded content some of the audience can be migrated towards the product, other towards more relevant content and then towards product. By generously creating branded content that consumers want to engage with, and enabling positive dialogue, transactions are turned into rewarding relationships for both sides.

The Future of Advertising, by Story Worldwide

If you had to select only one of today’s modern advertising mediums to take into the next five years, which would it be and why?

The mobile web, whether over the mobile phone or tablet device. We are increasingly demanding hyper-personalised content, based on time, location and activity, only a mobile device is equipped to deliver content in this way.

How do you envision the industry will change in the next five years?

I see two major changes, the first social and the second technological. Firstly, I doubt websites as we know them will exist in five years time. As apps continue their relentless charge, with the rise of the social web and the convergence of the browser and the desktop, the notion that content will be centred around a brand or company rather than an individual will seem crazy. People will demand hyper-personalised content. Secondly, photo recognition will reach near perfection, just by pointing our mobile device at an object we’ll be treated to an immersive, cinematic experience.