The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction …
November 5, 2013, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment

Many years ago, I was talking to a friend that was going through a pretty hard time.

As he was cataloguing the trail of disaster, I pointed out that his story wouldn’t look that out of place on a Jerry Springer show.

We both laughed because [1] it was true and [2] he was the last person you’d ever associate with anything Springeresque.

The reason I say this is because I recently came across this quote from Tom Clancy.

How brilliant is that?

Of course it’s brilliant because – as the conversation I write above demonstrates – it’s true.

The reason I am highlighting this is because as an industry, we spend an inordinate amount of time talking about, celebrating and producing ‘logic’.

Sure, I appreciate we like things to be nicely packaged because it makes us feel better about our lives, but the fact of the matter is, the way we live is often anything but.

Yes I know illogical often ends up forming certain patterns that we can recognise if we study them long enough [hence the value of ‘big data’] but even then, that’s not really telling us WHY people do things, just WHAT they did.

And that’s why for me, the problem with planning is we look for things that make sense rather than what is actually going on.

Of course the trendy way to explain this is ‘behavioural economics’ – something adland likes to think it invented even though other industries have been talking about it and using it for donkey’s years – but even then I think that’s wrong because we tend to talk about how we can capitalise on what people are doing [as opposed to what they say they do/like in a focus group] rather than understanding the [mental] thought process that goes on behind every decision.

So whether it’s making an ad or understanding the real insight behind the claimed insight, I much prefer the term ‘sound twisted logic’ because apart from anything else, it can also act as a beacon for authenticity … because to paraphrase Tom Clancy, if it makes logical sense, it’s probably not true.


PS: Happy Bonfire Night!

[Dear American Army, this is a British tradition, when we say ‘rockets’, they’re not the sort you like to use. At other nations. Thank you]


27 Comments so far
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I love the quote and I love what you are saying but surely if you suggest we should be looking for the reason behind the strange things society does, you’re attempting to make sense of it, or in other words, apply logic to it. Isn’t this what you say is one of the problems the industry is having, hence the Clancy quote?

Comment by Pete

Maybe you are referring to exploring the “twisted rationale” behind individuals actions. But that wouldn’t get you the scale you need to make it commercially viable insight.

You have talked about sound twisted logic for years and I agree with it, maybe the way you’ve written this post doesn’t quite do it justice. Or maybe you have written it this way to represent the twisted logic that goes on in all of our heads.

Comment by Pete

I would argue Peter that many people share the same illogical logic behind some actions and decisions and if you identify one, you may find you have the scale that makes that commercially viable to move forward with. Diesel have been doing it for years with the sizing of their clothes and I suspect many other have followed suit, just without the broader acknowledgement of their reasoning.

Comment by George

What made you so angry, did you stub your toe?

Comment by Billy Whizz

thank fuck youre getting pissy. i was starting to believe you were mother fucking teresa reincarnated. mind you, she was supposed to be a cranky bird wasnt she? keep it up, makes you slightly more likable.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m not angry, I’m agreeing with Rob, I just don’t think the way he has written this post reflects his point of view as clearly as it could. Which is why he should be grateful for George.

Comment by Pete

Errrm, yes … you’re right … it’s not brilliantly written.

I suppose what I was trying to say is that while a planners job is to make sense out of societies habits and actions, the reality is a lot of what people end up doing/deciding is based on some weird, personal logic – not the nice, neat and packaged variety we like to focus on because that’s what clients like to buy.

Hence my love of that Tom Clancy quote.

Comment by Rob

That quite is excellent Robert. How very true. I agree with Peter that on face value, the way you’ve written this post sounds contradictory so I am hoping you will allow me to explain what I believe you mean.
Most planners tend to focus on particular habits or moments to base their planning insights on. It leads to nicely packaged and explained logic, often revolving around the purchase or consideration of an activity relating to their clients brand. They actively seek these out and discount anything that they feel does not fall into this path of logic. But you are suggesting these random and odd responses and actions actually from the real decision making process and by embracing them rather than discounting them, you start to see what is really driving decisions and actions even if they defy the logic that has gone on before. Is that right?
I always remember you telling me that married men who we’re having an affair tended to call their wife immediately after a dalliance because it helped them feel they were still a good husband by “checking in”. I also remember you putting that to a group of recently divorced men where the ones who had been having an affair looked at you in horror when they realised they were all acting in similar ways. Sound twisted logic indeed.

Comment by George

I meant the “quote” was excellent, not the “quite”.

Comment by George

Saving Rob’s ass again George. Just like old times.

Comment by DH

Basically yes. Damnit.

And that ‘phone your wife after a knee trembler’ was something marriage guidance councillors have known for years. In fact, I am sure it was one of them that told me … which I’ll admit to now, because I got all the kudos I was going to get from you already. Ha.

Comment by Rob

So you’re saying the real reason I like sex with babes isn’t because they’re babes but because I think it will stop Donald Trump getting another divorce and he’ll reward me with a millions of dollars?

What’s twisted logic about that?

Comment by Billy Whizz

Didn’t impress the police though did it.

Comment by DH

I don’t care what anyone says, Rob’s right. How else can I explain willingly working for him for 4 years. It wasn’t sound twisted logic though, just twisted.

Comment by DH

normally id pan the shit out of you for this sort of shit but the clancy quote youre parasiting off explains everything behind the bullshit wife #1 tried to get away with. everyfuckingthing.

Comment by andy@cynic

Yes, she had some special ‘sound twisted logic’ didn’t she.

Comment by Rob

Did she steal a Russian sub too?

Comment by John

It’s all about rebellious conformity isn’t it.

Comment by John

Careful, you’re sounding like a planner there John.

Comment by Rob

Combining two contradictory terms in the hope of sounding erudite and proprietary you mean?

Comment by John

Yes. That is EXACTLY what I mean.

Comment by Rob

Never read a more acurate job description for account planning, bravo!

Comment by John Doe

Sadly you’re right Mr Doe. But not everyone is like that … because if they were, my parents would have beaten the crap out of me.

Comment by Rob

Seems that being quotable or witty is more valuable than actually understand how people, ads and markets work and design strategies around that insight. (I’m a rather pissy planner too)

Comment by John Doe

You must loathe me then. Not that I’m quotable or amusing, but you must still loathe me. At least you’re not alone.

Comment by Rob

There is an entire discipline of planning that Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network (former senior planner at Royal Dutch Shell and an world renowned author of a couple of best selling books on scenario thinking) uses to sort through this logic discussion quite well. Scenario Planning considers ALL options, identifies driving forces that can take consumers, businesses or governments to the decision points that each of the plausible options owns, and then allows the planner to put a bet on the scenario that is most likely to prove out the planner’s case. To do it right, you cannot ignore any of the realities- all, in fact, are critical to the final plan. I’m not a planner, but as a strategist, I have been surprised that media and advertising don’t use a scenario based approach like this.

Comment by Terry Horsmon

That may be because many advertising strategists believe society only has two settings that they manage their life by.
React to advertising. Don’t react to advertising.

Comment by George

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