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Why Storytel Thinks 2022 Is the New 1984



The teams at Storytel and B-Reel on the chilling similarities they found between Orwell’s 1984 and 2022, and how they carried the concept into Storytel’s new standout campaign, writes LBB’s Zoe Antonov

Why Storytel Thinks 2022 Is the New 1984

The content we consume is changing constantly – from text, to audio, to video, to immersive. Particularly, in recent days office dwellers and other go-getters have resorted to getting their daily culture fix on the go, through audiobooks or podcasts. Putting your earphones in and immersing yourself in a whole other world on your morning run or on the tube has become a daily occurrence for many of us. So, naturally, platforms like Storytel are taking the market by a storm, providing listeners with their favourite bits of history, culture, science fiction, classics, and much more. Long gone are the days when listening to an audiobook over “the real thing” would be frowned upon, or be an unbearable experience due to auto-generated bot voices devoid of all emotion. Now we get our favourite actors reading us a bedtime story or taking us to work and we suddenly see all our favourite novels in a whole new and improved light. 

So, in line with these shifting cultural tides, Storytel has been consistently upping their game and one of the latest steps forward they have taken is to retell the iconic classic novel by George Orwell ‘1984’. For the launch of the new reading on the platform, Storytel teamed up with independent creative agency B-Reel Stockholm and Tarot Pictures, to promote the launch through a campaign film. But not just any old film - this one was shot by director Daniel Eskils on 35- and 16-millimetre film, with every frame “beautiful enough to hang on the wall,” in the words of Afshin Moeini and Christian Poppius, creative directors at B-Reel. “It was a tall order, but the director and his DoP Arvid Kornstrand really rose to the occasion,” continues the B-Reel team. “We took inspiration from Storytel’s 1984 and incorporated snippets from the actual audio experience.”

B-Reel’s partnership with Storytel goes way back into the brand’s identity revamp, through digital, print and TV, keeping the love for storytelling at the core of the relationship. “We’ve partnered since 2018,” says Tobias Clewemar, global head of marketing at Storytel. “It really feels like we have grown together. B-Reel has been highly involved in both our brand platform and creative output over the years. For 1984 we truly wanted to stand out in the category and position Storytel as a destination for amazing and unique audio content.” This is why the platform has chosen exciting local actors from each country to read out the newly launched novel, with Michael Maloney, Chris Lew Kum Hoi and Rhianne Barreto as the stars of the English version, reveals Tobias.

When it comes to the film itself, it's a disruptive piece of work in the category – a natural continuation of the B-Reel and Storytel partnership, as well as a pedestal for the brand’s idea of ‘Setting stories free’. “Storytel believes that stories stimulate creativity,” says Tobias. “They make you think and they make you feel. For this campaign we took the opportunity to create a film that brings you into 1984 without over explaining. Our aim is to make viewers react, reflect and connect the dots themselves. This is very much in line with our ambition to broaden people’s perspectives and set their minds free with powerful audio stories.” Storytel’s ambition met B-Reel in their imaginative ways to work with the brief and the team ended up with a chilling revelation that became the central idea of the campaign – 1984 sounds an awful lot like 2022. 

After receiving the brief, B-Reel immediately began connecting the plot of 1984 with the news of today. “Everything we were reading and watching in the news felt surreal because we were simultaneously listening to Storytel’s 1984. The similarities were chilling. Then, we stumbled onto a mind-blowing fact: 1+9+8+4=22. We went full tinfoil hat mode. Now the question is, was 1984 a warning from the author or just a coincidence? We’ll leave that for the internet to decide.” For the agency, the line “2022 sounds like 1984” came very early on. “It was such an important line,” explain Afshin and Christian, “it connects the unique audio experience of Storytel with the classic novel. Listening is key to the brand and its key to understanding this campaign. When we figured out the equation, it really felt like we were channelling Orwell from then on out.” 

“We wanted more people to wake up to the fact that 1984 is no longer fiction,” the team continues. “Mass surveillance. Drone police. Protestors being arrested for holding up blank protest signs. Robot dogs patrolling the borders. This is our reality, today. We want audiences to get intrigued and whether they’ve read the novel or not, to really invest in this new audio experience that is the exact story the world needs to hear most at this moment.” The fact that a large portion of the population have already read the novel, or feel like they know enough about it, was actually one of the biggest challenges for both the brand and agency. B-Reel needed to figure out how to bring new energy to a timeless classic that has already been brought to life as a novel, a movie, a graphic novel and multiple audiobooks. Launching this completely new and unexpected take on the classic was not a light task for the agency, “especially considering the state of the world,” says Afshin. 

“We saw a great potential in making a film that is different from the vast majority of ad people normally see in the category,” says Tobias. “We wanted to set this story free, and show people its relevance to our present reality. We aimed for an exciting and intelligent campaign that could stand out in the clutter and grab viewers to think, listen and reflect themselves.” According to the team at B-Reel, if audiences really do listen, maybe we can “make 2023 a little less like 1984”. 

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B-Reel, Wed, 31 Aug 2022 14:17:16 GMT