Defining a Chief StoryRunner: Q&A with CEO Simon Kelly

Jordan Kelley, Content Director,

New York/Seattle based Story Worldwide, the brand storytelling agency, recently announced that it has hired Craig Teper, a renowned NYC based documentary filmmaker and creative production leader as Chief StoryRunner. Teper is known for creating in house production teams at Bumble & Bumble and The Barbarian Group, directing campaigns for clients including McDonalds, Avon and GE, and directing the feature documentary Vidal Sassoon The Movie. His work has appeared on Netflix, Showtime, Amazon Prime and BBC.

Brand Storytelling caught up with Story Worldwide CEO Simon Kelly to learn more about the role of Chief StoryRunner and its function in both the hierarchy and creative process of the company:

Thanks for talking to us, Simon. First things first, what is a Chief StoryRunner?

It's based on the showrunner role in the tv/film production industry, with which many, if not all of your audience will be familiar. We're simply applying it to the advertising agency business as we really believe it solves a number of persistent and inherent issues. Essentially it replaces the CCO (Chief Creative Office) as the head of all creative and production resources. In the same way the showrunner is ultimately responsible for the show narrative and overseeing all aspects of writing and production, the StoryRunner does the same thing - except the output is not necessarily episodic, but in a perfect world applies to all creative output, from traditional advertising to longer form narrative executions, to digital experiential content and more cutting edge mixed reality experiences. We've always believed and helped our clients anchor their content ecosystem with a core, own-able narrative, which we call the Story Platform. It dawned on us that the StoryRunner role does just that for the tv series and fits perfectly into our brand storytelling business.

Which came first, the role or the person to fill it?

Both! It came out of a discussion Craig, Josh and I were having about solving the conundrum we'd all experienced regarding traditional advertising creative leadership and the production process. Craig explained the StoryRunner role to us and the lights went on!

Where is the value in positioning "makers" at the highest creative levels of a client campaign?

Great question, and the answer to which I imagine traditional creative leaders, ECDs and so on will disagree. For us the value comes from having the makers make the call when producing film. Having ad agency creatives make the call on live action or animated film has been the norm, to date. Increasingly we believe that the content brands are going to create will be film based, more episodic, evolve into mixed media, new reality experiences and I personally believe that "makers" are better equipped to make that leap. Brands have to think about bringing their audience on an emotional journey, weaving various touch points into the core narrative. Traditional advertising creatives don't know how to do that, for the most part.