Figure representing “Mayhem” campaign for Allstate depicting a drawing of a man wearing a suit and his left hand kept in his trousers pocket.

Figure 8.1 This one drawing is what Leo Burnett used to sell the “Mayhem” campaign to their client Allstate.

8Why Is the Bad Guy Always More Interesting?Storytelling, Conflict, and Platforms

Rick Boyko, longtime creative and president of VCU's Brandcenter, explains the ad biz very simply: “We are storytellers in service of brands.”

Seven words, but they sum up what we do quite nicely. Our job is to get our brands' stories into the national conversation and ultimately into the firmament of popular culture. “To make them famous,” as they say at Crispin. The thing is, we don't get people talking about our brands by reading them product benefits off the sales guys' spec sheets. People talk in stories, and so must we.

There's a great book I recommend to ad students. It's not about advertising but screenwriting: Robert McKee's Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting. McKee makes a convincing case that the human brain is wired to hunger for story—that a structure of three acts, taking us from problem to unexpected solution, is something our brains crave. Story just sucks us in. Even when we know how the story is going to end on some late-night TV movie, we stay up later than we ought to just to watch the dang thing. Theorists suggest that story is actually a cognitive structure our brains use to encode information. So in addition to its drawing power, ...

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