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Adland is full of ego-maniacs.
Sure, some are more blatant than others – ie: me – but there’s a hell of a lot of closet Bono’s in this industry.
It used to mainly be members of the creative department that thought they were gods gift, but over the past 10 years, the planning community has decided to get in on the act and now you can’t move for people trying to appear like they’re a cross between Steve Jobs and Stephen Fry.
From my observations, it appears the holy grail seems to be to come up with a phrase or definition that the industry as a whole embraces.
In the main, everyone has failed.
Sure, a couple of guys have managed to achieve some short-lived burst of ‘terminology popularity’, but no one has managed to say something that has infiltrated popular culture.
Of course a lot of that is because we either:
1. Talk utter shit.
2. Say stuff that is only of interest to other planners.
3. Take other people’s genius, move the words around and try and claim it as our own.
The reason I say this is because I was recently [name dropping alert] talking to a gentleman who has achieved everything a planners ego dreams of.
More than that, he was able to do this while making not one – but two – social commentary statements that, with hindsight, proved to be scarily accurate.
Far more accurate than the average futurist, planner or researcher could ever hope to achieve.
Who am I talking about?
Who the hell is Trevor Horn?
Yes, THAT Trevor Horn.
Founder of The Buggles.
Writer of one of the 80’s most epic songs.
The genius behind ‘Frankie Goes To Hollywood’.
The founder of ZTT Records.
The producer behind the Yes mega-album, 90125.
But on top of all that, his work contained two statements that ultimately, captured the essence of the 80’s decade …
1. Video Killed The Radio Star.
2. The Age Of Plastic.
Think about that for a second.
In 1978 – when the song was originally written – Trevor Horn wrote about an impending – and fundamental – change to the music industry.
Sure the signs had been coming [Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is regarded as being the first ‘purpose made’ music video back in ’75] but only Trevor Horn truly understood the implications that was about to hit.
But more than that, he then called his album – which he recorded between 1977-1979 – The Age of Plastic.
That might not mean much to you guys because you’re all so bloody young, but the 80’s and plastic were the most perfect partnership ever seen.
Before the 80’s, products were made of metal and wood – they were heavy, expensive and ultimately limited in their physical and metaphorical flexibility – but suddenly the 80’s came along, and plastic allowed manufacturers [especially those in Asia] to make all sorts of products … products that previously, never stood a chance of seeing the light of day.
Now compare that sort of commentary to the stuff we see today.
“We are in the age of customisation”.
“Social media will change the face of communication”.
“Digital is destroying the publishing industry”.
You could argue that what is being said is correct – or has some element of truth to it – but regardless, much of is said – especially from the planning community – comes way after the signs have been universally accepted or at least talked about.
Basically we seem to have adopted the philosophy that if we say it louder or more often, we invented it.
We’re not fooling anyone.
Except maybe ourselves.
Then there’s the issue that if someone does say something new, the industries first reaction is to rubbish it, though I would say in my defense, the amount of truly new things being said – versus a new way of saying an old thing – is very small.
For all the talk about our genius, we might have to accept we’re just smart.
There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s something to celebrate and be grateful for – but from now on, if I want a viewpoint on what the future holds, I’m going to turn my back on the planners, researchers, economists and futurists and give a call to Mr Horn.
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