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

Objective Conflict …
August 30, 2012, 6:05 am
Filed under: Comment

I have always been a huge believer in having 2 planners on every piece of business and even now, try to ensure it happens as often as possible.

This is not – as many may believe – because it drives revenue, it’s because, among many things, it drives possibilities.

You see while both planners work for the same company and share the same beliefs – the key is they both have different views of how to achieve their goals.

This makes life interesting.

Not just because of the conversations that take place, but because of the information, insights, territories and ideas that it produces.

It’s a bit like my view on why The Who were so good, but with [hopefully] a lot less aggression and hate.

The fact is, I don’t believe planners working in isolation are that effective, especially when they’re the sort of planner who locks themselves into a room and then emerges 3 days later armed with a powerpoint document and a brief and says, “I’ve solved it”.

Debate is good.

Objectivity is interesting.

Conflict – managed in the right way – is liberating.

Which is why I believe approaching a project with the attitude of ‘what will cost the least amount of money/time’ rather than ‘what could create the best possible outcome’ encourages ‘normality’ before you’ve even started.

Of course this is not always the case … there’s a bunch of stupidly clever bastards who have the ability to generate genius on their own brainpower – but not everyone is like this and even if they were, I’d still argue this ‘objective conflict’ approach could push them to even greater heights if partnered with the right partner.

Anyway, I recently came across a TEDTalk that sort of validates this approach – even though the example they use is about someone who achieved a massive medical breakthrough whereas all I’ve done with it is make some ads … but that’s OK because as you know, adfolk are always looking to big themselves up by association. Why else do you think they hold the Cannes Ad Festival mere weeks after the Film Festival?

52 Comments so far
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I was wrong. I thought you had 2 on every account to annoy me, now I know it was to annoy everybody.

Comment by Billy Whizz

campbell annoys me just by fucking breathing.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’ve achieved something in life then.

Comment by Rob

Only a planner would come up with objective conflict. What’s wrong with saying fight like everyone else.

Comment by Billy Whizz

That is a very fair point Billy … it is bordering on the sort of ‘Yoda statement’ that I used to kick people for using.

Fight is a much better word, but in the oh-so-sensitive World of advertising, we need to use words/phrases that are much wankier so they can feel special and so they will stop focusing on the word and focus on the idea.

Just like clients really.

Comment by Rob

adland have become the fucking italian army of business.

Comment by andy@cynic

I don’t mind admitting I initially found it hard to adjust to working with another planner who had the same objective on the same account, with the same authority.

Eventually I realised how far it pushed me and the work which is why I now fully subscribe to the objective conflict model of strategy. This video explains why it works so well but the key is who you’re paired up with, something you guys did either brilliantly or terribly.

Great post. Even better talk.

Comment by Pete

That sums up my view to the letter.

Comment by Bazza

youre pair of fucking pair of whining, wimpy, mollycoddled bastards. all we made you do was work with other fucking people, your sort of planning people, its not like we sent you out to fucking war.

Comment by andy@cynic

It’s not often I agree wholeheartedly with you Andy, but this is one of those times.

Pete. Baz. Stop acting like it was a major trauma, it’s only bloody adverting for gods sake.

Worse, it’s planning … the knitting of communication disciplines. Or something.

Comment by Rob

in my last comment i said adland had become the italian army of business. pete and bazs comment proves i am right. as if there was any fucking doubt.

Comment by andy@cynic

Great last paragraph by the way.

Comment by Pete

This post is to justify your ability to start an argument in a cemetery, isn’t it.

Comment by DH

Robert is an equal opportunity debater. I mean that as a compliment.

Comment by George

And I take it as one.

Comment by Rob

But wouldn’t this methodology exclude people like me who are temperamentally unable to disagree and criticise?

Comment by John

Judging by your dialogue on this blog John, I believe there is hope for you.

Comment by George

I appreciate that encouragement George and shall try not to sit on the fence in future.

In other news, I understand you US residents aren’t getting the chance to see the Paralympics’ opening ceremony. You should try and find it somewhere, it was a bit special.

Comment by John

America didn’t have the chance to see the full none-paralympic Olympic opening ceremony either.

Comment by Rob

you can find opening and closing Olympic ceremonies in piratebay if you’re interested.

Comment by toto

Objective conflict is what happens when 2 planners start a company and are forced by necessity to work very closely and intensely together. This was certainly the case when Robert and I started cynic but despite many heated debates, especially in our earliest days, we realised this approach forced us to be better and more imaginative. The true realisation of this approaches value occurred when we had the opportunity to stop partnering, but we chose not to. It caused more headaches but I firmly believe it got better results and development.

Comment by George

objective conflict is what happens when i make a fucking stupid mistake and agree to go into business with 2 fucking planners.

Comment by andy@cynic

We all know it was the time of your life. You got 2 planners to abuse on tap. Your idea of heaven, surely!

Comment by Rob

like taking candy off a pair of fucking babies. half the fucking time, that wasnt even a fucking metaphor.

Comment by andy@cynic

How can it feel like yesterday and another lifetime at the same time? Still the most exciting time of my ‘professional’ career.

Comment by Rob

I felt a similar way when writing that comment.

Comment by George

get a fucking room.

Comment by andy@cynic

the woman in the video makes me have objective conflict. she gives a fucking good talk, but she has the look of an aging try hard hipster lesbian with condescending glasses and a face of a smacked fucking arse.

basically campbell with hair.

Comment by andy@cynic

Worst. Image. Ever.

Comment by DH

How the hell do you think I feel!

Comment by Rob

How do you think she feels?

Comment by DH

proud of that insulting dave. fucking proud. and impressed.

for once.

Comment by andy@cynic

Sorry Rob, Dave’s comment is wonderful.

Comment by Pete

Fascinating video Robert. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Comment by Lee Hill

‘Constructive Conflict’ is a beautiful concept but isn’t it hard to achieve unless the people who put you in it are mature enough to handle it?
I am not sure if bigger places can achieve this because it fundamentally comes from two people who come together to fight on the bedrock of mutual respect and fondness for not only what they do but who they are.

Comment by swati

Good point Swati – but for me, it’s actually less about the individuals who have been put together and more about [1] the people who put them together [2] the philosophy of why they were put together [3] how they manage what happens once they have been put together.

Of course, at the end of the day, the end result is all dependent on how those people interact rather than how the structure exists around them … however the way I handle it is ensure I have a team that shares the same values and beliefs so even though I’ll put people together that have diametrically opposing views on how to approach and achieve their goals, their respect for each other increases the odds of the experience being one of positive conflict, not just conflict.

It doesn’t always work … there have been disasters … but I think it can be achieved in any organisation as long as the reasons – and implications – for doing it are understood [& managed] at a top level.

Does that answer your concerns?

No, I didn’t think so.

Comment by Rob

Blatant attempt to take all the credit – not fooling anyone.

Comment by John

Really interesting post – thanks!

Comment by Ant

[…] came across this interesting TED video thanks to Rob Campbell‘s blog post. I enjoyed watching the video and also appreciated Rob’s point of view on […]

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I’d love to work with another planner as long as it wasn’t a Disruption Media Arts acolyte.
I seem to get to stuff a lot quicker by talking about it a lot.
I think that’s why, if you get a good account person, you should treat them like gold and genuinely try and work together, more often than not. these rare species are great planners who write contact reports instead of briefs.

Comment by northern

Talking is the key. Talking to colleagues … clients … salespeople … suits …people on the street … policeman … creatives … all and everyone.

The greatest thing I learnt was that others are waaaaay cleverer than me and if I talk to lots of people, they will make me be better and – more importantly – look better.

Comment by Rob

all you ever fucking do is talk. stopping to take a fucking breath is key.

Comment by andy@cynic

I sort of agree and disagree.

At BMP the ‘contructive tension’ was usually between the planner and the suit. As a young(ish) suit, I was told: “If you can’t occasionally win an argument with your planner, you aren’t going to last long.”

True …and I still tell the suits I work with in China the same thing. Planners aren’t infallible.

A couple of years back I was working as part of a regional planning ‘triad’, which consisted of: a ‘brand planner’ (me), a very creative media planner (no, that’s not an oxymoron) and a digital planner (also a great thinker). That diversity of experience and perspective led to some great thinking.

Sadly, right now I’m on Day 3 in the room … back to my powerpoint!

Comment by Ian Gee

Don’t get me wrong, whether it’s with another planner or a suit, creative, cleaner, managing director – it’s all good as long as it’s driving more powerful and provocative thinking.

The guys still have that here, however the reason I like structuring business with two planners on each account is because it [hopefully] encourages positive competitiveness.

Whereas a planner working with, say a suit, can – and does – come up with great ideas, the reality is one of those two people has another job they are being judged by which ultimately means it’s not as ‘life or death’ for them to really push the boundaries.

What I like is having people whose role is the same because by being judged by the same criteria and expectations, it ignites some competitiveness into the mix which can encourage people to go that extra 10% in a bid to ‘beat’ their planning colleague. And competitor.

Doesn’t always work, but it has had a profound affect on me and my belief in how to push better thinking.

Comment by Rob

Anything that stops planners boring the crap out of me is alright by me.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I think this makes perfect sense.
Planning departments have a variety of people with different perspectives, why would you not pit those perspectives against each other?

It’s kind of the same thing as having a copywriter and art director in a creative team.

The band analogy is good. Most great bands have an internal conflict that drives them, when that conflict goes the band creatively sinks. Hence rubbish solo albums.

Same goes for Monty Python. Once John Cleese left, Terry Jones got his own way all the time and the magic was gone.

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

the aim of objective conflict within planning should not be the arrive at one nicely polished perfectly cogent, all boxes ticked 1 big idea but to make sure that the many small bets which brands should be making every day do not get lost. am sure you have read the book and also mark earl’s adage video on why the big idea needs to evolve. try selling that to the client and the agency creative team.

Comment by asit

I agree and disagree.

While I absolutely believe it is vital you focus as much on the little things as the overall strategy, my view is that if all you ever do is pay attention to those ‘small bets’ a brand has to make every day, then you get lost in the those details and can’t move things forward.

With that in mind, I am a big believe in the big idea, though it has to start with a big strategy and that has to start with knowing what a client actually needs to make happen before you can even touch on what they dream to make happen.

In my experience, the problem is that too many agencies/planners mistake a big idea for basically a small idea with a fancy name and that is when things go wrong because they rarely take into the details that are so important in day-to-day transactions and operations.

As for Mark Earls … well we’ve talked about this and while there are elements we might disagree on, we both are coming from the same place and the reality – whether its based on herd thinking or objective conflict – is to do things that make a difference for both what they achieve and how they achieve it, which in my mind requires a big strategy as well as an acceptance and appreciation of the day-to-day details.

Comment by Rob

1. Great to get a prompt reply. That is already WOM worthy behavior as it is fairly uncommon amongst bloggers :))
2. The truth is as usual somewhere in the middle.
3. Big strategy is always more than comms solutions…and how many planners really get to influence the “big strategy”.
Would love to continue the exchange over a beer in shanghai !

Comment by asit

Ha … maybe it’s because I am as people on here claim I am, a lazy bastard that does nothing but write on this blog and/or go on holidays, disguised as work trips.

I agree that big strategy is more than a comms solution – but if my team aren’t doing … influencing … pushing … conducting or directing big strategy thinking, then I will want to know what the hell they are doing, because as far as I see it, that’s part of their job – even if on other occasions, they also have to translate that into comms strategy at the same time.

I appreciate not everyone is in that position, but if you – like me – want to influence change to justify your validity, you’ll keep pushing and working to make it happen, even if it doesn’t always come off.

Would love the chance to chat, maybe in a few weeks?

Comment by Rob

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