News & Views

Most Contagious / London / Adam Scott

by Contagious Team

Why great storytelling and effective communications live or die by our ability to push and pull the protagonist and the audience along a narrative journey

We are thrilled to have Adam Scott, architect, co-founder, and creative director of brand experience specialists, FreeState, joining us at Most Contagious in London on December 11. Adam will discuss storytelling and its vital elements through the ages, and will consider how brands can use it to construct their retail environments, marketing and entire proposition.

To find out more about Most Contagious or to purchase tickets, email

From your point of view, what can storytelling encapsulate?
Whether a 4,000 year old written story like Gilgagmesh or a 40,000 year old Aboriginal painted cave brought to life by songs and dances, tastes and scents; great stories stick with us and sometimes even change us absolutely and irreversibly! I love the way stories have always been the building block by which we make sense of the world and one another, I love the way we so nimbly become the protagonist pursuing their goals against all odds, and I love the transformative journey that great stories reward us with!

Storytelling's been a bit of an overused phrase in the advertising industry recently - why do you think this is?

The industry is interested, to a point, in the primal drivers which shape why we like certain things. Stories help us understand. Stories help us learn. As such, stories can help us 'like'. 

That said, if we are to believe Robert McKee, the author of the screenwriter's bible called 'Story', that a good story brings 'absolute irreversible change' in both the lives of the protagonist and those of the audience, then most ad industry stories fall rather short. 'Are we moved?' McKee demands thunderously!

How can brands use storytelling to their advantage? 

People don't buy products or services, they buy stories. It might be a story we tell ourselves, it might be a story I am helped to understand. A story takes me on a journey, it has a beginning, middle and end. 

The best advertising, the best product, the best retail should always be a journey; it might be a journey over time like an ad, it might be a journey through space like retail or brand experience. But ultimately the story is the active structure that pushes and pulls the consumer through a journey of causally connected moments towards a closed ending of influence or transaction... or whatever the brand is peddling.

How has technology helped storytelling evolve?

Storytelling is bigger than technology. Stories has seen ever technological innovation known to man, come and go. From the enduring immediacy of finger painting on cave walls to the flamboyant immersive storytelling of the great medieval cathedrals, new technology helps us better empathise and connect with a fictional reality. And digital innovation continues in the same vein, helping to better place me the protagonist at the heart of the story, crafting my own journey, my own narrative. 
How can storytelling contribute to a brand's growth and perception, both internally and externally?
For me, to begin with the consumer as the protagonist in a co-authored brand narrative is a powerful idea which can supercharge the brand at all levels. That said, all the forces need to be aligned to genuinely enable consumer and brand to produce and experience anything of note, let alone something Robert McKee would give his valuable time too!

What advice would you give to brands looking to tell their story in an engaging way?

Start working with genuine storytellers and give them space to make mistakes. Understand the craft and give time to the development. Critically observe the test audiences as they have the answer. 

What we have learned, particularly from observing walking audiences in brand experiences and exhibitions, is that brands do one or two stages of the story's structure beautifully but ultimately they do not follow through. The audience is literally left standing, no longer moving through the brand's narrative but distracted by something else, and then they are gone and all that great foundation work is lost.

And so for me, whether you are making a brand experience or a poster, an advert or a whole campaign; great storytelling and effective communications live or die by our ability to push and pull the protagonist and the audience along a narrative journey. As such I think we need to care more deeply about each moment, not just for itself, but for it's ability to seize our curiosity and take us somewhere unexpected. 

Great stories, however short, carry us with them.

Adam is speaking at Most Contagious in London on December 11 at Kings Place. Purchase tickets via Eventbrite or if you are a Contagious Feed or Magazine subscriber, contact to take advantage of your discount.

Most Contagious will also be taking place in New York on the same day, where Emma Coats, a story artist currently working with Dreamworks and Rovio will also be speaking on the subject of Storytelling. 

For more information on the events, or to book tickets, email