“Was kommt auf uns zu? Ich sehe herum, und alles zerbricht.
Alles ist in Stücken. Diese Zeit, in der wir leben.
Was, wenn etwas passieren würde? Wer würde sich um uns kümmern?
Es scheint, dass alles uns zerstören könnte.
Die Leute wollen unsere Familie zerstören. Hüte dich vor Ihnen, sie wollen uns alle zerstören.
Ich fühle es, alles so nah.
Diese schreckliche … schreckliche Katastrophe.”
(Maxim Gorki, Die Kleinbürger, 2. Akt., 1902)
Die Angst vor dem Fremden, dem Anderen, dem Unverständlichen gehört zum Menschsein und zur Menschgeschichte wie das Auf- und Untergehen der Sonne. Leider. Hierfür gibt es in der Geschichte ebenso wie in den Geschichten der Literatur allerorten viele traurige Beweise. Davon ist Obenstehender nur einer. Aus einer anderen Zeit, aus einem anderen Land, aus einem Drama, das seinen Namen verdient, beschäftigt mit dem einen Thema, das in uns stets und immer fortwährend die größten Ängste und größten Drama auslöst: Die Veränderung. So viel Positives aus jeder Veränderung hervorgeht, aus dem Neuen, aus dem Anderen, aus dem Vermischen des bisher Unvermischten, so sehr hat der Mensch immer genau davor Angst.
Auch heute wieder, 113 Jahre nachdem Gorki seine Kleinbürger über “diese schreckliche Katastrophe” hat lamentieren lassen, klingen die Menschen haargenauso. Alles zerbricht. Alles ist in Stücken. Alles scheint zerstört zu werden. Und hütet Euch vor ihnen. Vor Terroristen. Vor Islamisten. Und überhaupt vor dem Islam. Vor Flüchtlingen. Vor Marie Le Pen. Vor der Pegida. Vor den Medien. Vor Facebook. Vor der Digitalisierung. Vor der Globalisierung. Vor Deinem Nachbarn. Vor …
Und ob wir das (was auch immer DAS ist) schaffen, wird wiederum die Geschichte zeigen. Aber, wie immer, sind nicht die großen, lauten Medienberichte über katastrophale Zustände an Europas Grenzen oder in Flüchtlingsheimen, über zunehmende ausländerfeindliche Übergriffe auf und Demonstrationen gegen selbige, über hilflose Helfer und machtlose, weil ideenlose Politiker die (einzige) Realität. Nein (und auch das zeigen etwas feinfühligere Medien), es sind all die kleinen Geschichten und Momente des Alltags, in denen Integration, begleitet von unglaublichem Einsatz und Geduld, nicht nur möglich wird, sondern schon Realität ist.
Menschlichkeit ist möglich. Menschlichkeit ist Realität.
So gesehen und intensiv gefühlt bei der Schulweihnachtsfeier meiner Töchter in der vergangenen Woche. Liebevoll dekoriert und inszeniert (siehe Foto) bot, wie in jedem Jahr, jede Klasse etwas dar. Gesang, Tanz, Instrumentalmusik. Sehr schön, wie immer. Was nicht wie immer war, war der Weihnachtsrap der sogenannten “Übergangsklasse”, in der Kinder mit Migrations- oder Flüchtlinglingshintergrund über die Sprachbrücke in den Regelschulbetrieb begleitet werden. In erstaunlich gutem Deutsch (man denke an die kurze Zeitspanne von September bis Weihnachten!) und mit unbändiger Freude wurde hier gerappt und getanzt, ungeachtet von Alter, Hautfarbe, Herkunft, Glaube oder anderer angebliche trennender Faktoren. Vereint im Rap.
Es waren nur zwei Minuten, aber zwei Minuten, in denen ich spürte, sicher auch angeschickert von der allgemeinen, dem Frühlingswetter trotzenden Weihnachtssentimentalität, der Stimmung der stimmungsvoll geschmückten Schulweihnachtshalle: Menschlichkeit ist möglich, und Menschlichkeit wird siegen, sie muss. Und ja, wenn wir das alle wollen, dann schaffen wir das!
Wir dürfen nur die Hoffnung nicht aufgeben, dürfen Geschichte und Geschichten nicht vergessen. Derer, die jetzt Hilfe benötigen, ebenso wie die derer, die vor vielen Jahrzehnten oder Jahrhunderten hilfebedürftig waren. Denn das waren möglicherweise die Unseren, waren möglicherweise wir.
History repeats itself. All we have to do is learn.
Stories are everywhere around us. In every part and place of our lives.
Only: we are often much too busy to see them. Too blinkered by life’s challenges, the haste of getting from A to B, the illusion that life is a to-do list, and idleness evil.
Open senses are all it takes to escape this gridlock that makes so many of us unhappy; open eyes open up new perspectives.
Here’s a story (or rather a couple of possible plots) I literally stumbled upon while running in a close-by park – not away from anything, not towards anything, actually in circles, letting my thoughts do the same.
It’s the story of this deserted park bench jacket.
*Disclaimer: I didn’t put it there for this post.;)
My circling mind started asking: How did it get there? Where does it comes from? Who and where is the man (was it a man, just because it’s a man’s jacket?) who left it there? And why did he do it?
The jacket belonged to a homeless man. Lying there, taking a rest from life’s endless atrocities and perpetual failed hopes. Fell asleep in the first rays of warm sunlight surrounded by the colour of hope after yet another night in the rainy cold, looking for shelter, in vain. Hungry, thirsty, desperate, and so terribly tired, tired of life. When, after many hours of peaceful slumber, he was approached by strollers checking on him, he didn’t move. An ambulance was called, but arrived only to find out that the nameless man had passed away, covered by death’s cold hand in the late morning sun. Who was this man? What was his story? Which conflicts and pitfalls in his life brought him to this lonely park bench? And why was the jacket still there?
The jacket belonged to a man in his mid-forties who had been sitting there, trying to collect his thoughts, agonizing over the best way (if there was one) to avert the imminent drama in his life. The U-turn it was about to take, inflicted only by his own stupidity of cheating on his wife. After all that they had been through, one single moment of vain joy now thwarted it all. Would he ever see her again, his son? After his confession and pleas for forgiveness, honest, but (to her) lame promises, she had thrown him out of their house. Marital silence ever since, he was sleeping at a friend’s place. Suddenly, on his walk through the park, mixing fresh air with chain smoke, his phone rang. It was her. Asking if they could meet. Right away. He jumped up in incredulous joy, already on his way while she was still on the phone, completely forgetting his jacket. A happy ending?
The jacket belonged to a business man who had messed with the wrong people. Pushing his luck for the deal of his life with different parties, closing the bargain with the one side, pissing off the other, like real. And the other party was not the one to piss off. A thing he didn’t know, but was soon to find out on his daily walk in the park to work. The three thugs came out of nowhere, dashing from a blind spot … and then his world went black. Who was / is this man? Is he still alive? Does he have a family? What was the deal about, and what was really behind this ambush? And why did the jacket stay there while its owner has gone missing ever since?
Sounds like fiction? Sure it does, I just made it up. But .. only maybe. Do we know? Do we know ANYTHING about the world around us, our neighbours, every-day passers-by on our way to work?
Maybe the deserted bench jacket story was much more prosaic than this, maybe someone just accidentally left it there while taking his lunch break in the sunny park, fiddling around with his smart phone, then running off in a hurry to get back to work on time. Maybe just someone who didn’t want this shabby jacket anymore, too lazy to throw it into the used-clothes container?
Maybe, maybe, maybe.
There a story behind everything. And everyone’s story has its intriguing moments, twists and surprises. It’s just a question of taking a closer look, a question of perspective, of attitude.
And there is definitely some story up this jacket’s sleeve, behind its former owner for sure. Oh and: next morning the jacket was gone … Woohaah!
Sometimes, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. And sometimes, the world actually takes notice. Sometimes even a little too much. As in the case of Mister Robert Zimmermanns’ latest coup in a lifetime effort to alienate his lovers, re-assure his haters, and simply do everything possible to not fit into one of those boxes that our world so loves to create to get a grasp at the ungraspable: Life.
I’m talking about the new piece of advertising Dylan has allowed US car manufacturer Chrysler to produce using him as a mighty testimonial:
I’m neither going to chime into the (ridiculous and so 1965-Newport-Folk-Festival-like) fundamentalist fan mob’s “OMG! He’s selling out to commerce” outcries, nor will I (at least not yet, that is…) offer any half-baked analysis of why Bob is such a genius, why he’s never there, always the passenger of a slow train coming with no direction home, always already part of a new morning, heading for modern times, leaving blood on the tracks while his worshippers are still marching on desolation row towards the Gates of Folk Eden. No, others have done that before, probably better than I ever could.
Which is why it does indeed surprise me that he still actually manages to surprise, at least some, with his ambiguous “it ain’t me, babe” smile on his face. If it were up to me, he could advertise Pepsi refreshments or Victoria’s Secret ladies garments, I’d still not stop to admire the Zimmermann Phantom and his many ways of deliberate and couldn’t-care-less fanielation. Oh, he already did??? Ahh, whatever. 😉 Those two were at least entertaining, somewhat intelligently composed, and equipped with some more Dylan-esque “in-between-the-line-ness”.
No, what this here is about is my bewilderment by the fact that the Chrysler spot simply is a poor piece of pathetic advertising – and story-wise plainly sucks, because it isn’t a story, but pretends to be. And that a man, who has created himself a well-earned reputation as a musical storytellers of and about his time, agreed to be its centerpiece (I won’t call him hero in this respect, as it’s neither heroic what he’s doing or saying, nor in any way dramatic in the Aristotelian sense to make him deserve this title).
Why Chrysler is doing this, and exactly in this fashion, is clear: It’s an American company, more up-to-date American never than here, appearing desperate and back-to-the-wall-ish, seeing hopes dashing in many an economic sector; automotive, for example. They draw the marketing card of desperation (by the way: already Act II of the company’s Drame du Deséspoir after Act I where they threw Dirty Harry into the ring two years ago): Take a well-known, respected, but still a little controversial celebrity (you know they’ll love or hate him for this!), use clichemotional imagery of what makes America’s nerves shake (no way to err with cheerleaders and cowboys on horses in slow-mo, a little stars and stripes and historical analogies, babies and hard-working factory laborers!), polarize and tease your rivals a little (not too much, just a little to add spice to the saltless soup and give the regulars’ table something to talk about), and end with the all-too-expected “Wir sind wieder wer!” message stolen from se Germans in 1954. Oh, and not to forget: Pay millions to place this ad in front of the world’s eyes at the Super Bowl finale – where reach really still means conversion and conversation. About what, that’s another question.
Why Bob Dylan is doing this, Alias knows. Maybe to escape from the burden of being witty, erudite, convoluted, and the role model of more than one generation all the time, into the shallowness and immediacy of corporate advertising every now and again? Maybe just for the fun of acting while actually being an actor and not a singer-songwriter? Maybe for the dosh? Maybe, maybe, maybe … who cares? I don’t.
But what I do care about being insulted by bad ads and videos and films that pretend to be stories. Why do I think this one is so bad, may have become obvious above, below and in between these lines so far, but a friend of mine recommended I add a kind of management summary at the end of my posts to avoid the feeling of “Wow, that was interesting, but, err, what was it about again?”. So here it is, my dear Performance Passionist: 😉
Nothing’s happening. Nothing’s changing. It’s simply boring. I wouldn’t want to watch it to the end without all the media fuzz about and Bob Dylan in it. I would leave the latest after 30 seconds.
No surprise. No one manages to surprise me here, and seems like no one even wants to. The surprise of seeing Bob Dylan make-up-ed and hair-dyed after 18 seconds is the only surprise you get – and I’m left with the fear that the analogy of Dylan not holing any ball at the end might have a deeper meaning. A message triangle gone video.
No hero, no plot. There is no hero, only a narrator narrating through a non-existent plot. But actually narrator Dylan ain’t telling, he’s just talking, saying things that only scratch the surface of America’s story and the story of every American shown in these two minutes. Shallow and predictable. And don’t mistake the narrator for the hero, neither the story-immanent one nor the one you think you’re seeing. It’s only Bob (whoever that is) playing someone else.
No expectation. Neither within nor without this advertisement am I expecting anything, let alone more – and arousing no expectation is the worst mistake being made here. The fact that nothing is happening could, however, be countered by the tension and expectation of what might happen AFTER the short scene just shown. As it was actually quite successfully attempted in Dylan’s Victoria’s Secret spot in 2009, or in last year’s Louis Vuitton spot with David Bowie. Both not stories per se, but the beginning act of a potential plot continuation, a story teaser, making me expect more to come, wanting to know, if and how this scene continues. Not so with The Chrysler Boredom.
The only chance this spot has for a longer-term success and more sustainable, content-based conversations (beyond the “Have you seen the latest Super Bowl ad with Dylan?” reflex) about the big theme the ad is suggesting (“The people of America and their love to manufacture something with their own hands that provides a living for their families and a sense of pride to be giving the world something it wants, needs, and maybe even copies”), is a prolongation of this mere advertising pretension into the digital space.
A prolongation that includes every little story of every single potential hero in this two-minute film. The young lady wrapped in the Stars and Stripes at second 0:08. The grateful-looking old man at second 0:14. The waitress serving him. The mother with her(?) child at second 0:54. The factory worker at minute 1:04. Or any of the men standing behind the pool table like tin soldiers at the end. These stories, if indeed they exist, would prove that the above big-story suggestion is not just advertising bullshit, that the company able to pay so much money for production and airing of this ad actually is capable of lighting the spark of pride in these peoples’ hearts. That it maybe even manages to help improve their lives. Most importantly, this would prove that they’re not all just casted models for a seemingly authentic TV spot.
… And then there would be the story of this old man with the dyed hair who wants us to believe that he is who he seems to be, that he is actually someone we know, someone like you and me, and not just some Alias playing a role in innocent Billy the Kid’s endless fight against the unjust hands of some imported Pat Garret imitation …
That would be a story. A completely different one. One that many have tried to tell, but no one really knows.
Somewhere in the desert between America and Mexico. An endless black asphalt snake slithering through an intimidating vastness of brown, dry, merciless mountains. On the snake, in the distance, a car on the move. You can see (and somehow feel) the heat, the sun shimmering on the desert street. Suddenly, a man (or woman?) with a black motorbike helmet, steps out of the shadow of a rock prominence, observing the (now revealed: red sports) car. Screeching dirt-bike tires, a blinding smoke of sand, the motorbike drives head-on towards the sports car, at the last minute avoiding a collision. Bike and rider slide along the asphalt, bringing the car to a halt, and its driver to get out of the vehicle and check the seemingly unconscious biker’s wellbeing. BANG! The biker grabs the sports car driver and …
“One man. One job. But in the desert, nothing is simple.”
That’s what the video’s subline says.
It is nowhere, I’d say. But certainly nothing is what it seems in this very intelligent, bold and entertaining piece of corporate advertising about a man driving a very desirable convertible sports vehicle through the desert towards Mexico, meeting a beautiful woman who jumps into his car on the escape from her kind of choleric, overly protective, gun-loving, probably violent drug cartel boss husband. Who in the end catches up with them, and then …
Before we go on, you should enjoy the piece, and don’t let the length discourage you, it’s worth every second:
So what makes this piece of moving image that Jaguar had produce for the launch of its new F-TYPE sports car called “Desire” a true, well-told story? A story you (or at least I) desperately want to follow to the end – despite its epic 13:24 minutes (for me great counter evidence of the alledged commandment of brevity for content on the web)?
And to take the wind out of all those whining marketers’ “we don’t have enough budget” sails: It’s NOT the fact that it’s a Ridley Scott Associates production. It’s NOT the fact that it has Golden Globe winning actor Damian Lewis as well as Shannyn Sossamon and Jordi Mollà performing brilliantly in this film. And it’s NOT the great score including a song by BRIT award winner Lana Del Ray. Granted, it may help to have someone direct your advertising who knows his craft as a storyteller, but being good is not a question of budget.
For me, the following points make “Desire” a good story – or a story at all:
Plain and simple: It has a PLOT. Aka something is happening, something changing for the better or worse. On the broad scale of the overall almost quarter hour drama (“Man to deliver luxury car to wealthy client somewhere in the Mexican boondocks”), as well as in many micro-dramas along the way, e.g.: biker seizing car driver; woman hijacking car and driver; driver realizes the man he is supposed to deliver the car to is the man trying to kill him; the driver’s decision, not to deliver, but to help the escaping women; and so on, and so on.
It plays with the essential ingredients of story in the classical way that every great film, book or speech ever created does: EXPECTATION and SURPRISE. You want to know how the story ends! A story which simply is fun, not only because there’s lots of action scenes (which we men love), and some maternal-drama-meets-forbidden-love elements (which woman love, and men, too, c’mon, be honest, guys!), some nice grains of British humor lightening the tension between the protagonists, very well supported by a great musical score). But mainly because you want to know what happens next, and next, and next, and in the end. So, in a classical action-meets-love-story way, in terms of storytelling: nothing novel, not much innovation. But: In the respect of consequently integrating this into business storytelling and product adverising: indeed innovative. And intelligent.
Speaking of intelligence: I recently wrote, and would stick to this over and over again, that nothing is more boring for the recipient of a piece of business communications than a bleeding list of product features, benefits and what have you. But this film quite impressively shows us that, if you intelligently weave your “corporate messages”, your product’s miraculous features into a story: it can work and even be fun to listen to them. And, most importantly: You believe them! I mean, can it get any better than from minute 09:30 to 10:55? You (or at least I) actually believe Mr. Martinez when he says: “Now that’s a good car!” Within the plot, it does indeed seem credible that this paranoid mad man would detour from the most suspense-packed part of the story, the live-or-die, keep-or-lose-wife climax, by asking for the features of the car he ordered. The story stops for advertising, which you hardly notice at first, and when you notice, you like it, you bow your head and think: “Damn, if I could afford it, I’d go right out there and buy me one!” Or at least I do. 😉
So, what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Why?
In any case: I’m happy to see you again soon, here, where the story goes on … soon.
“Year after year, power cuts threatened the Yang’s orchid farm. Now is their last chance to save this fragile business. But it has been a long, cold winter in Guangdong…”
This is the brief, seducing intro to a very touching story about Mr. Yang and his family who are in the business of selling orchids in the Chinese province of Guangdong. The orchid selling season is running to its peak around Chinese Near year when the story begins. Normally, that’s a very exciting and promising time of the year. However, Mr. Yang is as nervous as never before, for him it’s an all-or-nothing year. In past seasons, his fragile flowers have suffered from frequent blackouts – and no power means no delicately heated greenhouses, means no flourishing orchids, and means no income for the Yang’s. This season is the very decisive one for the family and its business …
If you want to find out how the drama ends and what all of this has to do with a German engineering company, you should follow my recommendation and enjoy these six minutes of very emotional and intelligently story called “The Last Flower”, told by award-winning US documentary filmmaker Zac Murphy for the digital storytelling magazine “/answers”:
Some background on “/answers”: In 2010, while other B2B companies were still dreaming the twentieth-century broadcasting Muezzin’s dream, Siemens had the courage to experiment with the evil twin called “loss of control”. They asked renowned documentary filmmakers, journalists and authors from around the world to take their personal look at people who benefit from Siemens technology, mostly unknowingly. Every author is asked to find true heroes for a true, authentic, un-staged story, people who have or have had a major challenge in their lives which they manage(d) to overcome. The authors produce a piece of authentic story (not always necessarily film) in their own style and tone of voice, no branding, no company control of the creative process or outcome. I still think that’s pretty brave and remarkable.
/answers has been the experimental and at the same time very thought-through and dedicated top of my business story list for a very long period of time. The magazine was launched in 2011 at http://www.youtube.com/answers and http://www.facebook.com/answersmag and includes two new stories every month and lots of interesting background info and behind-the-scenes outtakes on the Facebook page. Worth watching and following!
BUT: Ever since, the business (2C or 2B, a very questionable differentiation anyway) communications market has moved deeper into the sea of stories and invested more time, effort and money into this social media currency – which is great and raises hope. Have a great example from Old Spice up my sleeve for the next post …
Stay posted, because: The story goes on … here … soon.