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

Why Planners Should Cry …
March 16, 2012, 6:16 am
Filed under: Comment

Adland has become a bit machismo.

It’s all about intellectual swordsmanship, trying to destroy someone or something with your brain and theories … so it’s no surprise so many of the ads out there either shout at the recipient as if they’re brain dead or show the sort of contrived emotion, you’d expect from some mid-afternoon, American cable television network.

Or a robot.

I’ve long said that for me, the greatest asset a planner can have is empathy.

An ability to absorb not just what people say, but feel it.

Their strengths, weaknesses, hopes and fears …

… then be able to allow your colleagues to feel the same things when you explain it to them.

When you do this, I genuinely believe magic happens.

When you do this, you’ve stopped making advertising and you’ve started creating deep, meaningful and powerful emotions.

For me, we’re losing this ability.

We’re choosing the path of intellectualism rather than emotion and that bothers me. A lot.

A few weeks ago I was at a pitch when the client asked a question about Chinese mothers.

When I was explaining the fundamental conflict so many were facing deep inside, I realised I was literally tearing up.


And you know what … instead of everyone pissing themselves laughing, there was literally a stunned silence in the room.

Not because they were shocked that some 41 year old bloke was tearing up, but because some 41 year old, bald bloke from Nottingham had made them feel – or understand – what their Mum’s [or, in some cases, them themselves] were going through.

No planning charts.

No theories.

No proprietary tools.

Just good ol’ emotions, expressed from a Mothers point of view rather than an ad person.

I’m not trying to put myself up as something special, far from it, but I am saying that emotions are the most powerful way to express and communicate and if as planners we approach everything with the cold, clinical and calculated view of a researcher, we are denying ourselves [let alone our clients and our audience] the ability to truly understand and connect with others … which in these days of technological advancement and ever shifting circumstances and environments, is the only consistently powerful piece of armory we have.

Of course tearing up in a meeting doesn’t prove you have empathy, if anything, it just proves you’re a little strange … and please don’t think I am suggesting every ad should be a tear jerker [but it would make a change from the almost constant ‘contrived happiness’ being shoved down our throats] … I’m simply saying that as an industry we go on about the power of emotions and yet 95% of what we do is bereft of anything to do with them even though, as we all know and as I said earlier, when you really connect to how people feel, magic happens:

About 10 trillion times better than the first John Lewis ad they did.

Still think selling ‘colour’ for colour televisions, is weak, but as an ad it worked beautifully.

You know I was going to put this one in didn’t you …

And finally, one of my faves, even though I am obviously incredibly biased, ha!

[You can read about the background to it here]

26 Comments so far
Leave a comment

You cried in a pitch? CRIED?

Now you know how your clients have felt for years.

Comment by DH

Did you win?

Comment by DH

You blubbed in a pitch. Big girl blouse.

Comment by DH

I feel like I’ve just seen a car crash happen in front of my eyes.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Just so you know Rob, if I’d been at that pitch, I’d piss myself laughing.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Chrysler ad. What a fucking surprise.

Comment by Billy Whizz

No planning charts + No theories + No proprietary tools
= Tears of joy

Comment by John


Comment by Carol

you sound like gwyneth fucking paltrow campbell. pull yourself tofuckingether.

yes its me. rejoice.

dont think you can get away with shit like this because im off winning the dad of the fucking year award 2012/2013. im still keeping an eye on you campbell and im still committed to you not writing planner wank shit like this bollocks.

now befuckinghave.

later losers.

Comment by andy@cynic

We’re saved.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Yeah, I’m sure the ‘Dad of the Year’ award is going to be given to a man who – within days of his daughter being born – goes on a blog and shouts obscenities at everyone. Then again …

Comment by Rob

Who was that masked man with the sharp opinions and the faint smell of talcum powder?

Comment by John


Comment by Billy Whizz

given planners make everbody else cry, out of laughter or despair, crying themselves should be no fucking stretch..

Comment by niko

It’s nice to see Andy make his presence. I am not surprised at your near tear moment Rob, you are a force to be reckoned with in pitches. Crying aside, this is an important post. I agree with you they’re lots of conversations about emotions but so few planners seem to try and understand them in a meaningful way. I don’t know whether that should lead to people crying in meetings, but the underlying point you’re making in this post is very important and very timely.

Comment by Pete

Does this mean you will take Rob’s advice and spice your comment up with the occasional negative?

Comment by niko

I did mention that crying in a meeting wasn’t necessary to demonstrate your empathy capabilities. Isn’t that enough of a negative for you Niko?

Comment by Pete

Well, if you’re not going to drink, I suppose tears are the only option…

Great to be reminded that ads that are purely emotive can still be very strategic. Another great example is the one that’s currently running in Oz for Kangaroo Island: A million miles away from your usual holiday spot and something that makes me want to have kids so I can take them there.

Of course one of the Mumbrella comment goons managed to illustrate the problem with some of adland “I think this ad is really nice, but it is JUST a great song set to some nice pictures, nothing more, nothing less. Hardly strategically ingenious.” Really? You don’t think it requires some strategic insight to take a client away from the clichéd ‘look at all the wholesome activities you can do here’ ad to a wordless, non-narrative piece of film aimed at inspiring a emotion rather than hammering a call to action?

Also, Rob, have you been saving these kinds of posts up for while Andy is away?

Comment by Felix

If you cry It shows that you care. So if you cry in public on a rare occasion, it ends up being a moment of greatness, not a moment of weakness.

Comment by toto

Not if you cry because you’ve been kicked in the balls.

Comment by Rob

Now that would be a memorable pitch,

Comment by John

of course not, Robert, of course not.

Comment by toto

If we are meant to understand people then empathy is surely a must have.

I’m sure Andy could make any planner cry.

Comment by Andy Replacement Service

Also the latest Cancer Research UK ad is one of the few ads I’ve seen that literally pulls the rug out from your feet emotionally.

Comment by Andy Replacement Service

[…] không phải là chuyện lạ. Rob Campell, head of planning tại W+K Thượng Hải cũng đã gần như khóc trong một cuộc họp với khách […]

Pingback by Khóc… | phuonghoblog

Leave a Reply