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

If We All Had Multiple Personality Disorder, The World – Or At Least Adland – Would Be Better …
January 12, 2010, 5:52 am
Filed under: Comment

Multiple Faces

So recently I was in a meeting when a client said – admittedly with tongue [a bit] in cheek – that the greatest invention for men was ‘the mall’.

When I asked him why, he responded by saying “… it keeps the women happy and occupied when the guys want to hang together.”

After gently pointing out that all the men who laughed at this comment were divorced, I asked the client …

“Do you know what the greatest invention for women was?”

After a bout of nervous coughing filled the room, I put them all out of their misery by telling them: “The mall”.

There were a few confused faces around the room before I explained …

“…women like the mall because it gives them something to do because their men aren’t fulfilling them mentally, emotionally or physically”.

At this point, the women in the room laughed or tried to contain their big, smug smiles.

Now is what I said totally true?

Of course not, it was a major generalisation, but the underlying issue of my comment is much more prevalent than many would think – especially Asian men [or should I say men in Asia] – however the point I’m trying to make with this post isn’t that too many relationships seemingly have a ‘Berlin Wall’ running through them … it’s that that too many people make major decisions and choices without ever considering the perspective of the other parties concerned and that is dangerous, stupid and just plain wrong.

The irony of all this is that in adland, we have people who are supposed to be able to represent the views of the real World – and they are called planners – but as I wrote here, too many let their own personal views and experiences cloud their judgement and so you end up with communication that has been created to appeal to the creator, not the people you need/want to reach.

Now I know what you’re thinking …

“But Rob, you’re an opinionated piece of shit and are always slagging off focus groups so what the hell are you talking about?”

Yes I am …

… but just because I have certain points of view doesn’t mean I don’t explore and consider the views, thoughts and circumstances of those who have different opinions and/or approaches to mine/ours – hell, that’s why we try and put 2 planners on every piece of business so objectivity and tension is inherent within the development process – but even with all that, I still accept my/our view is only one of countless views and possibilities … it’s just I believe our views and possibilities are a damn sight more interesting and effective than everyone else’s, ha!

Maybe it’s because I’m a gemini [or because I do have multiple personality disorder] but I seem to spend more time arguing with myself about what I think is going on &/or what I think is the right way to move forward, than I do with my colleagues [and trust me, I argue with them A LOT!] … and even though I get ‘shown up’ by their brilliance far too frequently – that’s still preferable to being one of those guys whose point-of-view can be destroyed with a single question simply because they arrogantly think they know everything and don’t value/consider anyone else’s view, experience or circumstance.

But back to the point of this post [and I know you all know this already, but the story I started this post with has really bugged me] … regardless of what you may think or have experienced in the past, if you don’t explore the contrary views/thoughts and behaviour of people [even if it represents a small group which ultimately reinforces your original view] you’re not just doing your client [and public] a huge disservice, but also your brain.

21 Comments so far
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At the end of the day nothing we ever decide is absolutely totally right. It is impossible to create the perfect campaign, but if we consider all sides and don’t get bogged down in our own world we can get damn close.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Absolutely, it goes back to the group polarisation effect. If you have a room full or people with the same opinion/behaviour, that opinion/behaviour will get more exaggerated (perhaps fruity language should be removed from your job spec??). Arguments and tension can get rid of the holes in a proposition while staying internal, allowing you to be even more confident when saying in public why you think someone/something else is a jackass

Comment by Simon Kendrick

Jimmy Choo is the greatest invention for women but thank you for defending our honor Robbie, you’re such a sweetie.
Jemma x

Comment by Jemma King

youre all wrong, the answer is divorce.

like auntie george whines on about, theres no fucking point involving people who have more fucking informed opinion and experience and then ignoring them or telling them outright theyre fucking wrong. its like going to the quack and diagnosing yourself. say what you think, say what you feel but don’t fucking believe all you fucking say.

now why the fuck is everyone writing on here so fucking early?

Comment by andy@cynic

Please tell me this client wasn’t involved in a category focused on women.

Was this another Billy Connolly and the queen situation?

It’s easy to say some planners aren’t doing a good job but what about the people who plan governments foreign policy? They seem incapable of understanding the issues and needs of anyone other than themselves. Youre right one dimensional opinions do a disservice to brains but it screws society more.

Don’t want to kiss your ass but the “double trouble” planning you put in place really helped. It wasn’t perfect, especially when Andy came in and rode shotgun, but it helped limit personal experience dictating too much output.

Please take notice I said “helped”. 

Comment by Bazza

I’m with Andy – what’s going on? Forget multiple personality disorder, what about sleeping disorder … don’t you guys ever go to bed???

I knew you all knew what I was saying – it’s just it was bugging me and I had to let it out. And Baz, you’ll be happy to know he doesn’t work in the female category – however the project we were discussing [of which he is involved] IS very woman focused.

Not sure if it was a Billy C situation, but if it was, it certainly wasn’t by the time I finished with him, ha!

I agree with your point Simon, however the situation is quite interesting from an Asian context because the dynamic/value system means people will tend to publically agree with whatever is the accepted group/societal viewpoint, even if privately they feel quite differently. That in itself makes a mockery of the whole focus group approach [or should I say, anyone who claims the findings from a focus group are a blueprint for how a brand should move forward] and yet – despite most people appreciating this quirk of Asia society – they carry on regardless, often resulting in doing communication that doesn’t work because it is based on comments everyone knows is not entirely accurate to what is going on or why it’s going on.

Oh, and if you think ‘fruity language’ is in my job description, then you have an even lower opinion of my company than I thought you should, ha!

Finally, yes Jemma – we know it’s your birthday soon, no need to make so many hints.

Comment by Rob

In answer to your question on my blog, I genuinely find your blog interesting! In among the ranting, there is almost always a really good point 🙂

Comment by Simon Kendrick


Comment by Rob

And in future, could you tell me what that ‘really good point’ is. Would help me out massively, ha!

Comment by Rob

“After ‘gently’ pointing out that all the men who laughed….”

i was looking forward to seeing you in action tomorrow..

Comment by Jacob

So was I mate … I was literally heading out to the airport when I got the ’email’!

On the brightside, I’m not going to cause a situation where the client hates you all … especially as last time I told them what they wanted called an insight but a lie, ha!

See you soon though …

Comment by Rob

Some interesting thinking around multiple selves here: …it tends to get quite noisy in my own head somedays…

There’s some really shouty stuff I want to say about focus groups and about the focus group of 1 that seems to drive some planning (like it’s hard to get a view with your head up your arse)…but that will have to wait…

Comment by katiechatfield

Hello Katie – how utterly lovely to have you pop by and with your evil insight [“it’s hard to get a view with your head up your arse” – genius!] … and I hope you come back again soon or at least tell me when you have written your focus group and/or planners-as-god diatribe because I am pretty certain I would love every word of it.

Comment by Rob

you are wrong Rob. though bless you for caring and inadvertently doing THE right thing. See what it is, is THE following.

personality type. you are à neurotic type of guy who likes his job and has been exposed to similar type of people. This carries over in your HR policies. so i am willing to guess most of Cynic are high on curiousity high achievement orientated but also high on self conciousness. this makes for people who are aware that THE answer is out there and most likely is not THE first one that pops in their minds.

most guys on this blog are that way. Most people in life are not. Simple. Nothing to do with adland or two planners and dead horse. it is THE people, stupid! you are that way gor lucky it got nutrured and found likeminded selfsdoubting yet arrogant chestpounding (not the ladies) over achievers.

Miss King..happy birthday

Comment by Niko

And Niko proves my case perfectly.

Thank you Niko. What’s the betting you’re single?

Comment by Rob

Actually that last comment isn’t totally fair …

You’re right that most people don’t know why they think/feel the way they do – and that’s fine, they’re not paid to try and understand the motivatations behind their actions and decisions – but I/we are, and so we have to look at all perspectives because even if someone gives an off-the-cuff, casual response to a certain question/situation, the reasons behind that can go much deeper.

OK … OK … I know that is not always the case and I know some people claim some stupidly deep pychological reasons for casual, routine activities … however the reality is you can always learn something – even if it’s that people don’t really give a shit about something – because if you can understand why [ie: what IS important in their life] you might find a way to make them care about something they had previously not considered and to me that is the truly great planning, hence understanding all views – good, bad and indifferent – has some value, it’s just knowing when you are in danger of falling into total wank territory.

Comment by Rob

i like this post and the discussion a lot.

i had an autograph book in my hands some days ago and flicked through it (from when i was about 12). “dont always say all you know, but always know all of what you are saying.” pretty good for run-of-the-mill wisdom if you ask me.

as you know, the only problem is that one can never ‘know’ for sure. you can only make informed guesses. i bloody love that point as it is about truth and (scientific) approaches/believes. hence, it makes sense to keep the mind open. good morning 🙂

Comment by peggy

I’ll have to try some of that contrarian thinking> Might be a bit of a stretch for me though.

Coincidentally, I was at a Q & A with Barbara Ehrenreich last night. She was promoting her latest book Smile Or Die (how positive thinking is destroying America) and she and a number of people highlighted the real problem, namely that those who rock the boat often get fired.

Comment by John

youre such a fucking groupie dodds. id buy the book it if it was called smile and die but giving them an option makes it way less fucking fun.

Comment by andy@cynic

It would have been nice to be a fly on the wall during that meeting! I think you’re absolutely spot on. It’s also great to play devil’s advocate during internal agency meetings, especially when people are really wedded to ideas. It may be a challenging thing to do, but definitely a worthwhile exercise (without being too much of a pain in the ass;).

Comment by Pia

campbell is a pain in the ass even when the fucker is agreeing with everyone pia. be careful what or who you praise for our fucking sake.

Comment by andy@cynic

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