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So I was at dinner last week and while I was waiting for the table, I looked across the room and saw this:
Yep, 3 kids, all playing games on various Apple products … iTouch, iPhone and iPad or as I prefer to call them, the electronic babysitters.
Now whilst I appreciate anything that keeps a kid quiet could be viewed as a good thing, when I saw the family act in exactly the same way when they were sitting at the table and eating, I ended up feeling pretty sad.
The thing is, meal time is a very important time … and in Asia, it’s always been a pivotal family moment where literally people get together, talk and connect … however it seems to be shifting and people now classify being in the same vicinity as family time rather than literally interacting and sharing stuff.
Now it’s all very easy to criticise, especially as I don’t have kids – but this attitude of convenience is prevailing everywhere which is why I think the photo is a great metaphor for what is currently wrong with planning.
As I’ve said countless times, planning is an outdoor job, not an indoor.
It’s about going out and meeting people rather than sitting behind your desk and reading reports off the internet.
Even if you are in the office, it’s about interacting with colleagues or – as every planner should have – a range of ‘informants’ from a range of industries and categories that can bridge the gap between passive and active engagement.
As I said earlier in the week, I have just been judging a shitload of effectiveness papers and the level of ‘insight’ that I saw was tragic.
Without doubt, I would say 99% of them came from a report rather than an experience … a client document rather than a conversation … a google search rather than exploration …
Planning is a wonderful job with an important role, but if you just sit there looking for convenient answers to complicated problems, you’re part of the problem not the solution and whilst we all have shitloads of work to do [yes, even me] not exposing yourself to ‘real life influence and learning’ is mental so with that in mind – and assuming you have no legs and are chained to your desk – here are 5 tips to get a broader understanding of what is going on out there in the real World … things that, if used right, could help you get to a better place than simply rehashing cliched statements based on a report from your client, peers or desk research.
1/ Magazine Promiscuity.
From trash to high-brow … read a different magazine a week.
In a perfect World, you’d read lots … but at the very least, reading a completely different magazine each week will expose you to a range of stuff from interesting to downright weird.
Oh, and make sure you include the trashy shit … because as much as it might offend you, a fuckload of people read it and our job is to understand the masses, not judge them.
2/ Develop And Nurture Informants.
I am a huge believer in informants. The more the merrier.
They should absolutely NOT come from the industry, they should be people who have a connection to ‘real life’ and be in a position to be able to voice an opinion because of their position.
My current range of informants includes teachers, police officers [fraud squad], journalists, taxi drivers, depression councilors, OAP’s, casino managers, Mums and Dad’s, retail assistants, talkback hosts, magazine editors and my beloved [from a research perspective only] prostitutes, to name but a few.
It may seem difficult to get, but it really isn’t … it just requires a pleasant tone, a genuine interest to hear what they have to say and maybe the odd lunch every now and then.
3/ Use Your Mouth & Ears.
Talk to people.
Lots of people.
It doesn’t matter what they do or where they do it … asking how they are going, how business is, best/worst moments, their family life can give you hints of what might be going on underneath the illusionary wall we all put up around ourselves.
This is why talking to friends and family can be good – or at least observing what they do & say. I’m not suggesting these people will be a representation of the rest of the World, but if they’re not associated with adland [bar being connected to you] you might find they see more about what is going on than you’d imagine.
4/ Watch The News. Read The News.
Sure the news is often focused on depressing issues – but they’re issues that infiltrate society and affect how many people think, act and behave.
If you don’t know what is going on in your community, country and World, you’re basically disconnecting yourself from a major influencer of your audience and if you’re willing to do that, you’re either a genius or an idiot.
Read local rags to national newspapers … and read them all, not just the sports pages or the front cover … read every part of them. And yes, that includes the classifieds … you can learn a lot from the volume of classifieds to the services they’re offering.
Are there lots of job ads and house sales or not many? Are you seeing the same thing promoted week in, week out or is it a one off.
Are you seeing more feel good stories or more views against a particular segment.
Don’t just look at the news, read it and understand it.
AND DON’T DO IT ON YOUR COMPUTER!
5/ Go For Regular Walks.
OK, so I said this was if you were attached to your desk, but the simple act of going for a walk and taking a few turns down streets and paths you don’t normally go down is amazingly valuable.
Look in the shop windows … look how people are dressed … check out the ads that surround them …
Are the streets clean or dirty … who do you see walking around: young, old, mothers … are there lots of pets and if so, what sort and size …
Again, I’m not suggesting you will get the answers to life by doing this, but if you open your eyes to what is around you, you’d be surprised – over a bit of time – the number of hints and hunches you could find that may, just may, give you a view into your audience that no brand is speaking to or has even seen.
Now I am not saying these 5 tips are going to suddenly make your planning – and the work that comes from your planning – astounding, at the end of the day, it still relies on your ability to ‘see and read’ what’s going on, however if your currently methodology in how you approach your job is basically to rely on your computer, then it will make a World of difference, if only for the fact that you’ll understand what’s really going on in life rather than the instant, convenient response that technology has a habit of fooling you into believing.
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