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What are planners today?
What are we supposed to be?
It appears – at least to me – that we’ve somehow positioned ourselves [at least to ourselves] as ‘the brains’ of our industry, relegating everyone else as bit part players in the creation of whatever genius we have envisioned is right to make.
That is scary for a number of reasons.
1. Being called a planner doesn’t automatically mean you’re the only person who has a valid opinion just like being called a creative doesn’t automatically mean you’re the only individual who can have a good creative idea.
2. Adland is at its best when it collaborates, rather than dictates.
3. Being desperate to be seen as intelligent, is the surest means of showing you’re not.
Of course there are plenty of other reasons, but all that aside, one that really bothers me is, like Picasso’s view on computers, we seem to have become a discipline that only operates in the trade of ‘giving answers’ rather than ‘asking questions’.
Yes … yes … I know many people will argue with that, claiming they ask copious amounts of questions to give them insights into how people think, feel, fear, love, want and do … but they’re not the sort of questions I am talking about.
What I’m talking about are questions that no one has the definitive answer to.
Questions that inherently have a massive challenge attached to them.
Questions that – if an answer was found – could maybe change the way people think, feel, fear, love, want and do … forever.
I appreciate this all sounds the sort of advertising ‘big idea’ wank that has made us the pariah of business for the last 20 years [mainly because what we often come up with are big ‘advertising’ ideas, not big ideas] but these are the sorts of questions great business people ask themselves each and every day … questions that are about affecting the future rather than reflecting the now.
Of course, whether a client would be willing to pay for such an approach is open to debate when  it has no assurance of success and  it would probably take a long time, if ever, to actually happen  most are only in their job for 2 years so only care about results they can take credit for … but I still naively believe that if you have the right client and you frame what you’re proposing as a business opportunity rather than an advertising exercise, then you might stand more chance of making it happen.
Please don’t think I am suggesting we suddenly stop caring about finding out what is going on in people’s minds and lives and become become masters of the philosophical question, far from it, in fact my view is you can’t ask a decent philosophical question if you don’t know what’s going on in people’s minds and lives … all I am saying is that if we only think our job is providing answers that reflect what’s happening today, we are undermining our potential [not to mention our colleagues & clients] to possibly influence and change what happens in the future.
Of course, the key is to actually do something with these questions being asked, as opposed to sitting there and talking about them – which is something planners love to do – and that’s why we should, ironically, look at the the people of the past for our inspiration, not just the ‘rockstars’ of the present.
UPDATE: If you’ve read this and thought it made even less sense than usual, maybe it’s worth reading this, which also doubles as my apology for wasting your time.
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