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

Why A Family Trip To A Restaurant Can Highlight One Of The Major Problems With Planning …
April 22, 2011, 6:03 am
Filed under: Comment

So I was at dinner last week and while I was waiting for the table, I looked across the room and saw this:

Yep, 3 kids, all playing games on various Apple products … iTouch, iPhone and iPad or as I prefer to call them, the electronic babysitters.

Now whilst I appreciate anything that keeps a kid quiet could be viewed as a good thing, when I saw the family act in exactly the same way when they were sitting at the table and eating, I ended up feeling pretty sad.

The thing is, meal time is a very important time … and in Asia, it’s always been a pivotal family moment where literally people get together, talk and connect … however it seems to be shifting and people now classify being in the same vicinity as family time rather than literally interacting and sharing stuff.

Now it’s all very easy to criticise, especially as I don’t have kids – but this attitude of convenience is prevailing everywhere which is why I think the photo is a great metaphor for what is currently wrong with planning.

As I’ve said countless times, planning is an outdoor job, not an indoor.

It’s about going out and meeting people rather than sitting behind your desk and reading reports off the internet.

Even if you are in the office, it’s about interacting with colleagues or – as every planner should have – a range of ‘informants’ from a range of industries and categories that can bridge the gap between passive and active engagement.

As I said earlier in the week, I have just been judging a shitload of effectiveness papers and the level of ‘insight’ that I saw was tragic.

Without doubt, I would say 99% of them came from a report rather than an experience … a client document rather than a conversation … a google search rather than exploration …

Planning is a wonderful job with an important role, but if you just sit there looking for convenient answers to complicated problems, you’re part of the problem not the solution and whilst we all have shitloads of work to do [yes, even me] not exposing yourself to ‘real life influence and learning’ is mental so with that in mind – and assuming you have no legs and are chained to your desk – here are 5 tips to get a broader understanding of what is going on out there in the real World … things that, if used right, could help you get to a better place than simply rehashing cliched statements based on a report from your client, peers or desk research.

1/ Magazine Promiscuity.

From trash to high-brow … read a different magazine a week.

In a perfect World, you’d read lots … but at the very least, reading a completely different magazine each week will expose you to a range of stuff from interesting to downright weird.

Oh, and make sure you include the trashy shit … because as much as it might offend you, a fuckload of people read it and our job is to understand the masses, not judge them.

2/ Develop And Nurture Informants.

I am a huge believer in informants. The more the merrier.

They should absolutely NOT come from the industry, they should be people who have a connection to ‘real life’ and be in a position to be able to voice an opinion because of their position.

My current range of informants includes teachers, police officers [fraud squad], journalists, taxi drivers, depression councilors, OAP’s, casino managers, Mums and Dad’s, retail assistants, talkback hosts, magazine editors and my beloved [from a research perspective only] prostitutes, to name but a few.

It may seem difficult to get, but it really isn’t … it just requires a pleasant tone, a genuine interest to hear what they have to say and maybe the odd lunch every now and then.

3/ Use Your Mouth & Ears.

Talk to people.

Lots of people.

It doesn’t matter what they do or where they do it … asking how they are going, how business is, best/worst moments, their family life can give you hints of what might be going on underneath the illusionary wall we all put up around ourselves.

This is why talking to friends and family can be good – or at least observing what they do & say. I’m not suggesting these people will be a representation of the rest of the World, but if they’re not associated with adland [bar being connected to you] you might find they see more about what is going on than you’d imagine.

4/ Watch The News. Read The News.

Sure the news is often focused on depressing issues – but they’re issues that infiltrate society and affect how many people think, act and behave.

If you don’t know what is going on in your community, country and World, you’re basically disconnecting yourself from a major influencer of your audience and if you’re willing to do that, you’re either a genius or an idiot.

Read local rags to national newspapers … and read them all, not just the sports pages or the front cover … read every part of them. And yes, that includes the classifieds … you can learn a lot from the volume of classifieds to the services they’re offering.

Are there lots of job ads and house sales or not many? Are you seeing the same thing promoted week in, week out or is it a one off.

Are you seeing more feel good stories or more views against a particular segment.

Don’t just look at the news, read it and understand it.


5/ Go For Regular Walks.

OK, so I said this was if you were attached to your desk, but the simple act of going for a walk and taking a few turns down streets and paths you don’t normally go down is amazingly valuable.

Look in the shop windows … look how people are dressed … check out the ads that surround them …

Are the streets clean or dirty … who do you see walking around: young, old, mothers … are there lots of pets and if so, what sort and size …

Again, I’m not suggesting you will get the answers to life by doing this, but if you open your eyes to what is around you, you’d be surprised – over a bit of time – the number of hints and hunches you could find that may, just may, give you a view into your audience that no brand is speaking to or has even seen.


Now I am not saying these 5 tips are going to suddenly make your planning – and the work that comes from your planning – astounding, at the end of the day, it still relies on your ability to ‘see and read’ what’s going on, however if your currently methodology in how you approach your job is basically to rely on your computer, then it will make a World of difference, if only for the fact that you’ll understand what’s really going on in life rather than the instant, convenient response that technology has a habit of fooling you into believing.

49 Comments so far
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theres a special name for people who take photos of kids without them fucking knowing it.

gary glitter will be in touch.

Comment by andy@cynic

I hadn’t looked at it that way … but then I remember once being at Heathrow Airport with Paul when a man next to me asked if we could keep an eye on his kids while he got a coffee.

The little baby started crying so I got my video camera out and turned it on – turning the little viewfinder screen around so he could see himself.

After about 10 seconds, Paul casually muttered:

“Do you know how dodgy videoing some strangers baby looks”

I swear to god I didn’t till he mentioned it, and that’s exactly what I said to the judge when I was arrested for being a perv.

[The last bit is a joke, I wasn’t arrested … infact I was only found guilty by Paul of being a bit of a tit]

Why have I told you this???

Comment by Rob

how the fuck do you go from kids dragged to a shitty restaurant with their disinterested family to 5 tips for slack arse fucking planners?

youre either a fucking genius or fucking dangerous.

i know which side my monies on. if i had money. which i dont because you ripped away my livlihood from me. bastard.

Comment by andy@cynic

It’s practice from all the post-rationalisation I’ve had to do on your old campaigns.

Comment by Rob

im leaving for my holiday in 3 fucking hours and im still waiting for my birthday cheques and strippers. where the fuck are they? youd better have them waiting for me when i get to my fucking hotel. youd better be paying for my fucking hotel. i give you all so fucking much and you bastards cant even see fit to sende a measly 10k us each. karma will come and fucking get you but theres still time. cash or birds, your fucking call. surprise me.

Comment by andy@cynic

How long a holiday. i.e. when will this blog be worth reading again?

Comment by John

your words touch me john. theyre fucking true but they touch me. 10 days. 10 fucking glorious days of campbell planner bollocks freedom. makes guantanamo sound tempting.

Comment by andy@cynic

your words dont count as a birthday present.

money counts. accurate fucking compliments dont.

Comment by andy@cynic

I think we all know the answer is “no” John.

Comment by Rob

Megan is lost. Her and her whip will be there soon.

Happy birthday yoda emperor.

Comment by Billy Whizz

you fucking idiot billy, im with the wife, get her to come back when im back and shes overseeing her mills & boon fucking half built palace.

Comment by andy@cynic

and you dont work for me any more billy so you can drop the emperor unless yodaemperor is one word then thats fucking fine.

Comment by andy@cynic

She’s at your door. Has she missed you? Well at least I tried.

Comment by Billy Whizz

and well done campbell on turning all the shit you did/do into “valuable tips”. that shows youre not as stupid as you fucking look as well as making planning look exactly as fucking stupid as it looks.

you forgot to justify going to a caff every wednesday morning to read the latest edition of heavy metal bollocks mag kerrang though thats probably because you were supposed to be at some weekly client shit so your excuse was already tailor fucking made.

Comment by andy@cynic

That was a very long time ago Andy, I’m much more mature now – I read it on my iPad so I can do it when I’m actually attending my weekly client meeting.

Comment by Rob

did i mention my birthday on monday?

Comment by andy@cynic

this bollocks is quite good.

not just for planners but any adland fucker who wants to take the piss out of their employer.

ok its alright. maybe even a bit fucking valuable but given you also justified expensive regular trips to meet struck off forensic fucks and a never ending production line of wired and weird, you are just showing how unifuckingmaginative and lazy the young generation of planners are.

but then thats because theyre too busy being sycofuckingphantic on other planners blogs and djing to actually go and experience shit for themselves.

too good to them campbell.

right compliment over. wheres my fucking gift/money/giftmoney.

Comment by andy@cynic

“theyre too busy being sycofuckingphantic on other planners blogs and djing to actually go and experience shit for themselves.”

Sadly genius.

Comment by Rob

You have to wait for your table?

Comment by John

i do, thats how far ive fucking fallen but campbell probably owned the fucking place and wanted to steal more cash from some poor fuckers mouth before he sat down to gorge himself on caviar, beans and chips or some shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

You also forgot to explain the benefits of watching Jerry Springer every day then getting on the xbox for a few hours.

If I’d known this was what planning was about I’d of skipped school at 7 and before one.

Comment by Billy Whizz

good fucking point billy. then theres the “charge music to the company and claim its fucking research” issue.

Comment by andy@cynic

Never underestimate the value of watching the trash or playing the games the masses watch. As for buying music, OK … so that was about my pleasure because there’s no bloody way I could handle listening to Britney however much of an insight she could give me into kids. Jesus, what with the photo, this post and that last part of the comment are really not doing me much good are they.

Comment by Rob

Great post Robert, shame you have to write it though.
Happy birthday Andrew, you know your present from me and it’s exceedingly generous.

Comment by George

if i say any fucking differently ill look like a total bastard wont i. cunning bastard.

for the fucking record, i got a cake made by his little princesses, a shitty card that is printed on paper thats so fucking thin it cant even stand up and an original garfield cartoon because auntie bastard george thinks i like lasagna way too fucking much.

no cash. no strippers but better than any other fucker on here has got me.

Comment by andy@cynic

I paid for some of that as well!

The card anyway.

And thank you George – you’re right, it is sad. I suppose the saving grace for us was that the internet wasn’t around when we started so if we didn’t get off our arses and talk, look and investigage – we’d be fucked.

Still think that’s the case, but sadly the ‘google generation’ think the answers to the universe are but a click away.

God, how fucking old does that make me sound!?

Comment by Rob

You knew everyone would take the piss out of you when you wrote this post didn’t you Robert? I say everyone, but I mainly mean Andy, Billy & John.

I agree with George that this is both a great and disappointing post. Great for the tips and the inspiration to open your eyes and ears to the clues about societies views that are all around us. Disappointing that you had to write it and that many planners think sitting at their desk is the best way to do their job.

Happy birthday for next week Andy, I know you’ll be having a big one so make sure an ambulance is near by. And I’m very jealous about the garfield cartoon. Nice gift.

Comment by Pete

you make taking the piss out of campbell sound like a bad thing. what the fuck?

what a fucking surprise, planners sticking together as fucking usual. campbells just written a post justifying taking a more fucking relaxed attitude to working than even the creative department have been able to get away with for the last 50 years so your praise is falling on deaf fucking ears buddy.

and im glad you like the garfield strip, its yours for a measly fucking 50 grand. cash. and a fucking card. i want to know youre really happy for me on my annual stomach pump day.

Comment by andy@cynic

im going now. so make sure the cash and strippers are with me by the time i get to the hotel or get home or ill come round and fucking smash your knee caps in. or make you read this blog none fucking stop for 24 hours. while listening to queen. i play fucking dirty, dont you fucking forget it.

Comment by andy@cynic

How will we cope without your words of advice and encouragement?

Comment by Rob

Happy Birthday Andrew, Enjoy our hospitality, don’t abuse it.

Comment by Lee Hill

I knew you’d succumb.

Comment by Rob

I think anyone would benefit following those tips. Excellent post Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

It’s not meant as an alternative to getting out there and doing stuff for real, but an addition … however given so many people think planning is about loading up on their browser, it might start making a few guys appreciate ‘marketing world’ and ‘real world’ are very different beasts.

Comment by Rob

Oh! So true. Great Post Rob. As much as I hate to admit this is public, I am more of a “Planner” now than I was when I actually had that title on my business card.

Comment by swati

Do you mean that in the positive sense of the definition or the negative, ha!

Comment by Rob

You didn’t mention using the products and services themselves. That should be a given but I doubt it is.

And 5a) Use public transport.

Comment by John

The ‘use the product’ is a given, but the public transport tip is a great one for a whole plethora of reasons.

Comment by Rob

the tips are great and they prove to me that if you weren’t in advertising, you’d be one of those old school police detectives that has ‘unorthodox’ crime solving ways, but ultimately gets the bad guy every time 🙂

i have a differing opinion about your initial idea regarding the death of the universe by staring at small screens instead of continuing traditions. but let’s save that for another time.

i do find it ironic in a way, though, that you are posting about planning and being separated from society on a public holiday. when you should be hangin’ out with your wife and cat and having beautiful social interations with your culture. ;P

Comment by lizzie

I can answer that easily Lizzie, there is no public holiday for Easter in China, hence I am at work and my wife & cat are having a much more peaceful time without me.

Comment by Rob

And for the record Lizzie, I’d be too frightened to put myself in dangers way so there’s no way I’d be any police detective unless guaranteed to have 25 armed coppers assigned to just looking after my well being, ha!

Comment by Rob

oops. sprung.

Comment by lauren

See above Lauren … it would appear ‘Lizzie’ seems to think what happens in her World automatically must happen in everyones. Maybe she’s not as globally aware as I thought she was when I wrote this post:

Comment by Rob

One of my favourite planning explorations is just to go to wikipedia, hit random and follow a trail until I get bored.

It’s a good way to scatter knowledge. Though I agree magazines are an excellent source.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Two thoughts about the actual post (sorry to be boring):

1)I reckon planners use the other sources in their effectiveness papers because even Google is seen to be more ‘legit’ than personal observation or even their own research -sadly.

2)I give my 3 year old the iPhone when we eat out (and ONLY when we eat out) because it’s preferable to a public melt down. At home we talk about philosophy and our feelings as we look each other in the eyes over our whole wheat bread and organic carrots.

3)Isn’t that picture an example of planners/creatives doing their job so well that it effects the very core of culture? Yay us!

Great post.

Comment by Emily

Isn’t that 3 points?

Thanks to this blog I know that’s not an insight, but an observation of a tired mother. Or someone who can’t count.

Comment by DH

Oops -I plead distracted mother. I’m just impressed I wrote 7 whole sentences at once.

Comment by Emily

Ahhhhh – now I understand what Dave was going on about in his comment today.

Comment by Rob

[…] by a wife who doesn’t, for example, want any phone usage during dinner [which is why we will never do this] but I appreciate there are times where taking your phone out could be as inappropriate as taking […]

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