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Closer to True – Immersive Storytelling

Storytelling is deeply embedded in human learning. From an evolutionary perspective, it is argued that stories have been the most efficient means of understanding and communicating about the social world.

Throughout time storytellers have recognised the immersive effect of a good storytelling environment. I’m really passionate about making storytelling an easy experience for the user.

Long form journalism was feared to be one of the first casualties of the digital age as the news industry struggled to adjust to falling advertising revenues and the rise of social media.

But recent years have seen a rise in new approaches to digital storytelling, harnessing all the multi media elements made possible by the internet to give readers an experience traditional platforms of print, radio or television would not be able to provide alone.

When it comes to web design and marketing, one of the most overused phrases is “immersive experience.” So, what is immersive experience? You can think of it as highly visual and often social, borrowing attributes from video games, film and TV that can make you forget you’re looking at a screen at all.

The phrase “immersive experience” doesn’t sound as pretentious as some other buzzwords — at least not yet. It sounds inviting and honestly kind of desirable. Everyone wants to be immersed in interesting web content and brands are quickly learning how to use that to their advantage. But to succeed, it has to be done well.

After trying to create a few immersive experiences with differing success I kept running into the same headache. The content was good. People were engaging with our stories when they visited the platforms, but people are time poor. How do you keep people coming back?

I was compelled to create a story that fit right into the audience’s life. That would feel ‘real’ for them regardless of who they were and how much knowledge they had of the product or brand. The question I asked my team was, “is total immersion possible if rather than having the audience come to you, you bring the story to the audience?”

The story had to happen in their world, on their devices, on their favourite platforms.

And so while working on a campaign for a film called Kill Me Three Times, which starred Simon Pegg, we started experimenting with this idea.

The concept being we put you in the heart of the film plot. You (the audience member) witness two of the films main characters executing a hit; you capture this on your mobile.  The hitmen spots you and for the next three days these characters hunt you and your real life friends down.

We built the tech stack to deliver SMS’s from friends and the film characters, phone calls from police, discoverable swathes of personal data. What we succeeded in doing was creating a story that happened around the user, on their platforms.

This required the audience to take a big leap; we’re asking them to put themselves there. While we are a step closer to true immersion – we weren’t there yet.

I’m passionate about complete immersion. Finding ways to throw the user into a story; down the rabbit hole without even knowing they’ve been placed there.

To do this is extremely challenging. One of the things we’re doing with a corporate client is creating personas based on time of day, location, user’s device and then rapidly augmenting the persona with more personal information we can scrape from the internal network; rapidly assembling a contextual rabbit hole.

The end result is real time video that could potentially be taking place where the user is.

But we can still go further.

360degree video allows us to film action that puts the audience in the centre of a scene – a scene unfolding around them as they spin with their device. These can be triggered when a user passes a location, with the scene taking place right where they are.

We can also flip that on it’s head. Don’t start with a bang. Find a little tiny bit of information about an audience member, a job title, an email, and start there. Create automated stories to defined personas and kick start a timeline of events that feed off a tiny drip of information – building the rabbit hole out from this crumb of information; as you discover more about the audience member, you build and tailor the story to fit until they can’t help but notice it.


About the author 

Joel Beath Head of Content, Loud&Clear

As co-founder and Head of Content at Loud&Clear, Joel has been the creative mind behind a number of nationally-based campaigns throughout a range of industries. He is responsible for determining the creative direction of each campaign within Loud&Clear.

Joel’s experience in broadcast, social, film and digital gives him a unique perspective into how content is consumed across a variety of platforms. In his role Joel is responsible for the creation and approval of all company and client work; he creates relevant, integrated and entertaining content for a modern audience and a broad spectrum of clients.

As a result, he has been responsible for producing award-winning campaigns, recognised by the BE Awards, MADC and The Gruen Planet.


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