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

I Never Want To Be A Brainiac … Which Is Handy As I’m Not.
November 11, 2010, 2:02 pm
Filed under: Comment

One thing [another thing?] that really fucks me off are planners who are obsessed with being regarded as ‘intellectual heavyweights’.

The books … the associations … the language … the references … the speaking engagements …


What makes it even more annoying is that rather than focus on trying to do something that people – real people, not ad groupies and wannabe’s – think is smart, their goal is simply to be labeled as a genius.


OK, so there are some planners who are genuine geniuses [you can tell because they don’t make a fucking big song and dance out of it] and there are some guys who just find the pursuit of high-end knowledge really bloody interesting – however in the main, planners are supposed to be able to understand and relate and adapt to all segments of the masses, so if they have their head permanently stuck up their arse – or think no other group or lifestyle is as interesting or as important – the chances of them actually understanding what the real issues and opportunities are, is minimal and so everyone ends up losing.

And don’t give me any of this ‘but they could offer a smarter perspective’ bollocks.

What is a ‘smarter perspective’ anyway?

If I had to be specific, I’d say it’s when someone has an interesting approach to a particular issue – but that doesn’t mean ignoring the situation, it’s about really understanding it, which requires empathy with the audience, not distain.

Maybe I’m an old fuck, but if anything is ‘intelligent’, it’s when someone does [emphasis on ‘does’] something clever that not only shows a deep appreciation of the challenge, the audience and the opportunity but can somehow pull it all together and nurture the wider team to create something that infiltrates society because it’s relevant, resonant, interesting, exciting, energetic and effective … which is why I would put people like Mark Sareff, NP & Gareth, Jason, Age etc [and there’s a lot of ‘etc’s’] ahead of many of the crop of adlands ‘egghead’ planners, even though I am sure many of them are decent human beings and have done great things.

[Sorry if the guys listed think they’re geniuses, maybe they are and I’m just uber-shit at seeing it in such glowing terms]

To paraphrase David Ogilvy, the masses aren’t irrelevant or uninteresting, they’re your mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and kids – so for those wannabe planning professors, my advice to you is to pull your head in and remember doing clever things is going to make you look much smarter than just talking about it … especially when what you’re saying is basically a repeat of what someone else has already said, which you highlight by not being able to relate the ‘nugget of genius’ to any other real life situation or scenario.


PS: Please note this post relates to people currently employed as planners … the reality is I’m far more inspired by people who aren’t even employed in advertising, let alone planning … and for some reason, quite a few of them come and insult me on this blog. They know – and you know – who they are.

36 Comments so far
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Do you mean the planners who get known for writing a book and quoting examples of work or thinking that they had nothing to do with developing?

If that’s the case I’m with you on that as well. Didn’t you used to have a special name for them?

Comment by Pete

You wouldn’t have any one in mind would you Pete?

Comment by DH

It’s not limited to them Pete, but they do feature quite heavily. Not all planners who write books I should add – but the ones who you quite beautifully capture in your comment.

Comment by Rob

most planners talk fucking shit but some talk a higher level of fucking shit than others. that is not a fucking compliment.

and pete you little fuck, i like you caustic words and i know who the fuck youre talking about but that should also extend to planning fucks who aspire to write a fucking book even though it will be filled with stuff they didnt do. bit like bbh labs fucking tweets.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m impressed you know about tweets Andy.

Comment by Pete

fuck. you. asshole.

Comment by andy@cynic

He only reads them when he’s waiting for his builders to arrive … which judging by the progress of his house is about 90% of the time.

Comment by Rob

fuck. you. super asshole.

Comment by andy@cynic

What do you think about cool brainiac planners Rob?

Comment by Billy Whizz

A slight on the face of humanity who should be treated in the same way as the World acted against smallpox.

Though can you even have a cool brainiac … apart from in their own minds?

Comment by Rob

I often get introduced to clients as a cool brainiac planner, but I always treat it with a mixture of fear (being presented like, for all it’s glory, a circus animal) and embarrassment (same reason).

But if I were to be honest, it feels kinda good, deep down. 😐

Comment by Aditya

after these 2 posts campbell, im fucking upset i had to go in to biz with 2 uncool thicko fuckers because ruining the lives of the cool brainiac wankers sounds like it would be a fucking blast.

i fucking hope its tiredness thats making me like this fucking shit because the alternative is a fucking horrible thought.

Comment by andy@cynic

So I’m an “uncool thicko”. Now there’s a backhanded compliment if I ever saw one. Thanks, George and I are over-the-moon for being so underwhelming and on behalf of both of us, may I apologise for ruining the opportunity for you to execute your sadistic bastard talents – though if they would be worse than what we had to experience, I genuinely think you’d be writing your comment from the comfort of a prison cell.

Though a unfinished house in Canada is pretty much the same thing isn’t it? Ha.

Comment by Rob

at least its not in fucking nottingham.

Comment by andy@cynic

Fair point.

Comment by Rob

Yesterday I was name-called “The Edge” of advertising… who knows where this will end up?! 😉

Comment by Age

Do you really want to open that door of possibility Age?

Comment by Rob

Thick as shit, me.

Comment by Marcus

You can’t be that thick, you don’t work in advertising.

Comment by Rob


Comment by Marcus

Bastard? That was a genuine compliment.

Comment by Rob

I know. Still a bastard though.

Comment by Marcus

You’ll always be a heavyweight.

Comment by John

That’s not as bad as what you’ll always be known as … which I ensured Mr Tate knew all about. Ha.

Comment by Rob

One thing I like about planning in the North is the lack of inflated assumed intelligence. Most planners I’ve met here (My colleagues, NP, GemmaT, etc) seem to have a down to earth perspective that helps get decent work out of smaller budgets and less open clients. Actual intelligence rather than just book intelligence.

Learning is great, but if you don’t have a real perspective on life then it’s uselsss. Look at how many people spent a decade on degree/masters/etc education only to find there is no place for it in the real world without common sense. (But likewise common sense is useless without some knowledge)

Comment by Rob Mortimer

And then there’s the planners who work on/have worked on one or interesting brands with open clients and big budgets, who therefore think it’s OK to lecture everyone else about ‘becoming the thing people are interested in’ and how ads and stuff need to make people ‘feel the right thing’ because no one responds to messaging.
This happened when the great ones from a certain global group came to talk down to the Manchester office, and found they didn’t have a clue to deal with the very real issues facing clients with budgets less than £5 million. For example, they actually thought a natural based shower gel could/should set up a farmers market in Tesco on a budget of £2 million.
Even the great John Steele isn’t always helpful when his advice on pitching comes from the perspective of a three month pitch process and money to spend on both qual and quant.
It’s not easy doing good stuff for Nike, Apple, Levis etc, but when you’re ONLY task is to inspect culture to find the most appropriate role for comms it’s a hell of a lot easier than writing a brief for a bed retailer based in Wigan.
And while I’m at it, most global brands are useless too, too big bloated and stupid to see beyond their own silos and Millward Brown’s fucking brand equity pyramid. Of course, it’s not the client’s fault entirely, it’s wanker agencies (usually media and the WPP’s of this world) that feed tha system, because it makes it easy to make money without having to think too hard, but not entirely.
So if you’ve done good, smart, clever work we’ve all heard of, yes, you might be OK, you might be very good, but don’t pretend you haven’t been given a huge slice of luck too

Comment by northern

I have been incredibly fortunate in my career because I’ve worked with great agencies, colleagues and clients but I have had experience – predominantly when I started my own companies – where I’ve had to do it much tougher, where the realities of working (especially pitching and executing it) were raw, demanding and highly pressured which is why I not only agree with NP but I can say with hindsight, it made me a much better planner and operator as well.

I’m with Iain Tait at the moment and while we were cooking dinner ( one of the things we were talking about (apart from Doddsy’s perverted streak) is that when you have your own business and have to prove your worth each and every day, you take on more stuff to ensure great things happen which is why the line between planner and a whole host of other agency disciplines gets blurred.

That doesn’t mean you do things you’re not qualified to do, but your involvement and responsibility doesn’t stop once the brief has been written and we both felt this was a good thing and something many of the ‘cool’ and ‘brainiac’ planners don’t understand, let alone acknowledge – mainly because for many, their experience hasn’t exposed them to this.

I’ve written all this but what I’m really trying to say is here:

Comment by Rob

Ouch. My name is Bud Cadell, and that kind of hurt. Perhaps one day you’ll appreciate my fucking wittiness. Twat.

Comment by BC

Hi Bud, am I missing something here?

Comment by Rob

ROFL. ‘k I DO know more of this kind.

Comment by Aditya

Told you!

Comment by Rob

well fucking done to northern groper for another silver medal standard explosion of vitriol. he might of put everything back on fucking topic which usually annoys the shit out of me no fucking end but its so aneurism inducing that he gets an andy salute which is like the victoria fucking cross and purple pissing heart comfuckingbined. you dont get those fuckers on the new years list.

Comment by andy@cynic

Wish I’d read Bud Cadell’s comment first, on the other hand, that may well have tipped me over the edge

Comment by northern

er, can i pipe up and suggest that what you’re all hatin’ on is not actually intelligence, but arrogance and/or ignorance.

the more everyone hates on people who use big words and write books because they’re confusing the two, the dumber and harder life (including clients, planners and the consuming public) gets.

and i realise that this puts me squarely in the brainiac wanker fuckwit end of the spectrum, but if i look like i give a fuck, it’s because you mistook me for someone else.

Comment by lauren

I agree that there’s a confusion between the two but I also remember that planning isn’t about being paid to find the meaning of life (double rainbow style and all that). It’s to make more money for clients, as harsh and prostitution-like as that may sound, that’s what we signed up for at the end of the day.

Some seem to derail into things that may well be fascinating but you reach that tree falling in the woods with no one to hear it state..

Comment by andreea

I suppose the point Lauren is not the use of big words. It’s the use of big words when simple ones will do the job better. The habit of trying to sound overinflated and important rather than simplifying the problem and solution to the key parts.

I posted this on Will’s blog the other day. Relevant here too:

This poster is on my planning wall just in case i ever should forget.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

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