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

Genuinely The Last Regular Post For A While …
June 25, 2010, 5:30 am
Filed under: Comment

… and when you’ve read it, you’ll realise it’s not because I’m moving to China, but because I’ve alienated myself from the planning community.

So I’ve been doing this advertising lark for a lot of years.

Twenty one to be precise, and even though I’ve been blessed with working for/at/with brilliant and highly regarded agencies/companies … I’ve had more people contact me to say ‘Hello’ since it was announced I was off to head up planning at Wieden’s, than pretty much at any other point in my career.

Now of course when I started in adland, the World ran on steam … a billboard was the local post office notice board and twitter was something birds did so it’s fair to say technology has played a big part in spreading the word [not to mention my smug-as-fuck one man advertising campaign, ha!] … however whilst I love meeting/talking to new and interesting people, I have to admit I find it funny that now my name is associated with the words ‘Wieden + Kennedy’, I’ve suddenly become sort-of popular* when in every other aspect, I’m pretty much the same person – with the same values, attitude, philosophies & views – as I’ve always been.

So to my point.

One of the problems I have always had with adland – and planners in particular – is that they tend to judge/value others more by the company they keep that what an individual say’s or [preferably] does … which is why the people who tend to get the ‘fame’ are the ones who sit in the cool shops, even though often, the planners most deserving of praise are the guys who do great work with less glamouress clients in less cool surroundings.

I wrote about this a while back … detailing why I rate Northern so bloody highly … but the thing that is really bothering me is how little debate really is going on in our industry.

I read blogs, magazines, tweets and while there is a lot being talked about, there’s not much actually being said … quite often it’s nothing more than new packaging of old theories.

What’s caused this to happened?

Well I have a theory ….

First there’s this fucking terrible movement to position planners as Rock Stars.



Who the fuck came up with that shit … oh yeah, a planner.

Apart from the fact planners aren’t rock stars and – given our job is to understand people, everyday people, shouldn’t be rock stars – its creating an atmosphere that the annointed ones should never be challenged.

When you factor in the power of technology to distribute and spread messages, you can see why some people are fearful of voicing their alternate opinion for fear of being instantly and universally chastised.

But the thing is, I actually don’t know if many planners do have dramatically different opinions to the Keith Moons and Keith Richards of planning.


Well this leads to my second point and that is that we have started to believe we’re geniuses. Not just geniuses but invincible geniuses.

We can make everything better … absolutely everything … and anyone who disagrees with us is wrong.

Earlier this week I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about shit fashion and implied a planner could have made it better … and to be fair, I honestly believe that … however I would lay money that they’d be a whole host of planners [not the ones on this blog, you obviously have no desire to be seen as cool if you come to this blog] who think they could do better than anyone else they were pitched against.

Fashion designer?

Window dresser?

Retail expert?

We have started to be a discipline having one dimensional conversations … talking about subjects that make us feel important and clever with people who make us feel relevant and cool … when for all intents and purposes, the discussions taking place have minimal impact and influence on the everyday lives of the very people we’re paid lots of money to understand, engage and motivate.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of clever and great people in adland – but in my experience, the ones who are the smartest are the ones who know they DON’T know it all, so go out and get alternative views and experiences … not just from colleagues in the agency, but people in the real World.

I’m not talking cool photographers … DJ’s … painters and skaters – though sometimes that may be the case – but DR’s, teachers, salesmen and prostitutes.

And you know why this works for them?

Because they hear perspectives they’d never of thought of … views they’d never consider … issues they couldn’t imagine and so when they combine that with their natural talent and intellect, they can question the supposed set-in-stone theories, they can argue the latest planning trend and they can make bigger, better and greater things happen … bigger, better and greater things interms of creativity, loyalty and profit.

Of course I’m hugely proud and excited that I’m going to be working at such a great agency within a couple of weeks, but I have to say I’d hate to think someone agrees with me just because I work at Wieden so if I could suggest something for any young planners out there, look away from adland for your inspiration and education and aim to create your own destiny rather than follow someone else’s just because they [1] work at a great agency and/or [2] they’ve been labelled a fucking rock star planner.

Ooooooh I feel better now that’s off my chest.

To be honest it’s not really captured what I wanted to say or what I thought I wanted to write about … plus it’s all over the place and missing some key sections I really wanted to cover – but it’ll do – it’ll have to, I’m writing this late and I need to go to bed.

For the record, I should point out that the reason why I find this blog so enjoyable is that when the insults are over, we have a good debate and it tends to also involve the brilliance of Lauren, Peggy, Marcus and John – who as none adfolk – ensure we can’t go too far up are own arses which is why this blog will be back soonish. [Sorry!]

Right some house-keeping.

1/ Today is my last day at Sunshine – and so I want to say a big ‘thank you’ to everyone and wish them all the best with whatever they get up to in the future. It’s a short ‘bye’ as I’ve already said my formal thing but I still wanted it to go on record.

2/ I don’t know how I’ll do it, but I’ll try and get the results of the Head & Shoulders A[P]SOTW assignment up sometime next week . however if that doesn’t happen, it won’t be my fault, it’ll be the couple of judges who’ve not pulled their fingers out and given me their feedback, hahaha! Eitherway, the results will be out soon and hopefully you’ll find the feedback helpful and valuable.

OK, that’s it . apart from the couple of blog posts I’ve pre-written, this place will be on limited operation until I’ve sorted out a place to live and the China firewall, so until then enjoy the peace.

* NB: my version of being ‘sort-of popular’ would still be your version of ‘social-leper’

48 Comments so far
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if id been asked to be a fucking judge id of given my feedback on time.

who let you down? bet its a fucking planner isn’t it. the other judges have real jobs and i bet it was planners who have kept you waiting. funny how you lot are fucking shit at planning your own fucking lives half the time.

the thing ive always liked about you campbell is you instinctively know what others think of planners and adapt your approach to suit them and get the best out of them. thats fucking smart.

the rock star angle is a fucking joke because the only people who think that way are other planners which just adds to the division, not avoids it.

if planners are anyfuckingthing theyre little princes because every decision is thought out or contrived to look as spontaneous as possible which isnt living for the fucking moment without a care for the implication. 5 year old kids are more rock star than planners. and smarter a lot of the fucking time.

you might be a right fucking pain in the arse but your view of what planning is and how it should help each fucking audience its got to interact with is what separates you from every one approach, one process, one solution, one proprietary tool using wannabes out there.

thinking about it youre pretty good. for a planner. i taught you brilliantly.

now will you fucking go already.

Comment by andy@cynic

I delivered my judging stuff on time. Why wasn’t Andy a judge?

Comment by northern

And if a planner actually was a rock star, he’d Brian Eno
On a slightly related note, A friend of mine once slept with Tinky Winky from Teletubbies’s girlfriend – the blok that played him actually sued the BBC for not acknowledging the way he’d developed the character and compensatinh him as such, that’s what I’m reminded of when planners start to think we’re rock stars, at best, we’re the shadowy producers at the back, hopefully less Pete Waterman and more Phil Spector

Comment by northern

Look at Northern throwing some of the other judges under the bus. That’s a man who’ll be CEO of a Rupert Murdoch company if I ever saw one.

And yes Andy, it is planners who are letting down the side … but in the interests of not embarrassing Freddie, I refuse to tell you which one it is.

As for why Andy wasn’t a judge Northern … use your planning brain to figure it out, it shouldn’t be too difficult, ha!

Comment by Rob

I remember hearing that story and pissing myself about it.

Developed the character? From what to what?

The other thing I love is that few people realise the sounds ‘Po’ were making were actually Cantonese – so while the other weirdos were sounding like my mates after a night on the piss, Po was spreading communist orders to the Chinese community right in the face of the Brit authorities.

Now that is modern day warfare.

And your mate who slept with Tinky Winky’s girlfriend … excellent work … but did she have a big head and funny eyes too?

Comment by Rob

I must admit that when I see “planner rockstar” articles I cringe and immediately think of David Brent in the UK version of The Office when he walks in with his leather jacket.

There’s nothing wrong with being part of a planning community, it can help in a multitude of ways, the issues is when planners think all they ever have to do is go to the community for help and advice rather than turn to their other agency colleagues or go into the real community and learn for themselves.

A really good post Robert especially the underlining message that variety is the spice of interesting planning.

Comment by Pete

“Variety is the spice of interesting planning”.

Proved Rob’s point brilliantly there Pete.

Comment by Billy Whizz

petes comment was planned and boiled down to within an inch of its life being interesting wasnt it billy boy?

lets remember dire fucking straits were once viewed as rockstars. seems a bit too fucking ambiguous a term now doesnt it mr and mrs planner types.

Comment by andy@cynic

Maybe but that doesn’t excuse that you’ve put your Dire Staits reference above my Proclaimers to look like you had the idea first even though it was minutes later. Typical CD taking the glory off their teams.

Comment by Billy Whizz

if you cant see i was just trying to encourage your career progression then youre a blind fuck.

poker face and not the gaga version.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’d have thought you’d have learned the first rule of advertising by now Billy. It’s who gets the credit that matters, not who has the idea.

Comment by John

forget survival of the fittest, its survival of the evilest and im very fucking well thank you very much.

Comment by andy@cynic

Ignore the ‘children’ Pete … though I know you already do.

If I’ve made it sound like the planning community is a waste of space, that was not my intention – there’s huge value in being ‘part of it’, it’s just that emphasis should be placed on the words ‘part of it’ because the real growth … and the thing that I feel is becoming lacking in more and more guys … is breadth of knowledge and experience, not just depth.

I’ve been very lucky to work with some amazing people in adland [and some were guys who didn’t work at ‘hot’ agencies] but if I think about it, I’ve probably been more influenced professionally by individuals who’ve never even stepped into an agency, let alone worked in one.

At the end of the day, adland is about finding commercially beneficial ways to connect, enthuse, energise and resonate with the people on the streets … so if all we ever do is follow or listen to guys in agencies, we’re doing ourselves, our clients and our fellow citizens a huge disservice … so by all means work with the planning community, just don’t be beholden to them and for fucks sake, don’t lose your curiosity or cynicism just because one of your peers says thats how it should be, which I appreciate is an open invitation to slag me and this post off, but it’s not like I’m not used to that is it, ha!

Comment by Rob

your post was long enough without you having to add marathon fucking comments as well.

Comment by andy@cynic

OK, this whole post in uber-simplistic form.

I don’t like the fact that some people will see Wieden + Kennedy before they see Robert Campbell.


Comment by Rob

Sure planners can be rockstars, just in the same way The Proclaimers were rockstars.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Good post Robert but it’s a tad confusing as you’re basically saying “listen to me telling you not to listen to me.”

Comment by George

george has turned. george has fucking turned.

Comment by andy@cynic

That makes it sound more zen than it can possibly be George. Basically I think it’s good advice. If there’s one thing we’ve learned here, it’s never to listen to him. Goodnight.

Comment by John

you had me scared there for a moment dodds then you came through and kicked campbell right in the nuts. good move and astounding fucking aim.

Comment by andy@cynic

Good post.

This job (and life in general for that matter) is much better when you dont assume you know everything and force yourself to have to go out and have conversations with different people in order to learn stuff.

Comment by Age

youre turning into fucking oprah,

Comment by andy@cynic

It’s the classic saying:

The wisest person knows that he really knows nothing.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

You saw through my cunning double-bluff. Fuck, must try harder next time.

Comment by Rob

youre hardly some master fucking spy are you campbell!

Comment by andy@cynic

Oh shut up, you’re going to the best agency in the world and one of the few who understands and can convince clients that it’s an art and that people actually appreciate beauty and intelligence. I’m fucking jealous.


Comment by Angus

I’m sitting on the “Stop Complaining, You Don’t Know You’re Fucking Born” step.

Comment by Rob

A really good post to read and a great reminder the people in advertising are really only representatives of the people in advertising.

Good luck with the move Rob.

Comment by Bazza

Anyway, good luck and don’t forget those shorts (and Angus is right, stop complaining)

Comment by northern

I was complaining about planners, not W+K.

[Clarifying that incase I’m fired before I start]

Comment by Rob

That would be quick, even for you!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Has he gone yet?

Comment by John

If we become the type of Rock Stars that don’t forget their background, listen to the latest new things, and genuinely care about their fans; maybe it won’t be all bad. Just as long as we don’t become members of the planning ELP.

Good luck!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I know what you’re saying, but there’s also the other extreme where planners jump onto whatever jargon bandwagon is the current darling of the industry … even if they don’t really know what its about or whether they believe in it.

In other words, the Italian army of planning! [Sorry Mum]

Comment by Rob

You mean User Generated Social Media Apps 3.0?

Comment by Rob Mortimer

So people who spend their days determining and pronouncing on how everybody else thinks should suppress their egos?

Comment by John

Before they take over the product design and all other business and governement functions.

Comment by John

I can see what you’re doing there Mr Dodds … and as a man who continually tells me I’m wrong and what I should infact be thinking and doing I respond by saying POT. KETTLE. BLACK.

Comment by Rob

I only pronounce on you, not the populace as a whole. I epitomise modesty. With good reason.

Comment by John

I think your comment deserves this Mr Dodds …

Comment by Rob

I’ve stopped talking to you since your W+K annoucement.

Comment by Marcus

I’ve noticed … and to think I bought your book and everything, ha.

Comment by Rob

Isn’t claiming to epitomise modesty the opposite of epitomising modesty Mr Dodds? I think that’s called an oxymoron, but that could mean the kind of teenagers that hang around outside my local Co-operative. That’s right, even in my genteel country village, there is still an element of the wrong sort – if was China they would have been executed by now

Comment by northern

I think Doddsy knew that Northern, hence my

Of course if he didn’t, he’s a tit. 🙂

Comment by Rob

for someone so brilliant, im very fucking humble. everyone tells me so it must be true.

Comment by andy@cynic

accusing me of brilliance isnt exactly a thing to ensure im grounded rob. i know i had the one or other brilliant idea (not sure they were published on this blog tho, given its more often than not that im writing here late at night lol). but then, i had lots of crappy ones as well. and sometimes, the brilliant and the crappy ones arent even mutually exclusive. thats fucked up really.

to the annoyance of some of my school teachers back in the days, and quite possibly many other people down to the present day, questioning things that dont make sense to me, makes sense to me. thats only human, isnt it. but i got the impression, questioning things is what we are trained to stop first of all. instead we are trained to just believe the things were getting served. im not advocating doubt for the sake of it, but acknowledging that even facts are only based on assumptions. santa claus anyone lol. now… before i indulge myself in highfalutin speech about truth and knowledge… happy sunday to all! 😀

ps: werent u cut off the internet on friday? lol

Comment by peggy

Happy belated birthday if I didn’t say it already.

Looking forward to your arrival in Shanghai…let me know when you’re here and have time to meet up. Perfect timing; weather’s gorgeous.

Comment by Rob

i look forward to keeping your head out of your arse for a while yet 🙂

have a great time settling in and see you on the flip side kiddo.

Comment by lauren

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