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

The Secret To Good Planning: Pain & Frustration.
November 16, 2012, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Advertising in China is interesting.

That doesn’t mean it’s bad – hell, some is amazing – but there is a whole lot of bad all around the place.

There’s a whole host of reasons for this, of which one is the need to please your boss more than your audience [so that if anything goes wrong, they cannot be directly blamed because they can say they simply ‘did what has always been done’] … which is why if you look at the mass of communication that runs here, many fall into one of two areas:

1. Convey a mass of rational facts.
2. Feature a plethora of celebrity endorsement.

Of course not all ads – or clients – are like that, but a hell of a lot are which is why I feel incredibly fortunate that I don’t have to endure that situation at W+K.

That’s not being a corporate toadie, it’s true … but that being said, I genuinely believe being put in those situations – as I have been on many, many occasions in the past – is good for your learning and development.

Yes, pain & frustration is good for you.

Yes, being told what you’ve done is wrong is good for you.

Yes, having to work well outside your comfort zone is good for you.

Maybe not at the time, but definitely in the long-term.

You see if all you’re ever exposed to is working with open minded, broad thinking, understanding clients, you won’t develop the level of roundedness, adaptiveness, resilience and – to a certain extent – deviousness, that I believe is necessary to grow.

Our job is to help brands go to places they never thought possible … places that attract the audience, rather than always chase them … but if you can’t help clients, especially difficult clients, understand how your recommendation is a commercially wise decision – as opposed to being one of incredible risk – then you’re going to have a career full of ‘could have been’ rather than ‘been there, done that’.

That said, this isn’t just about knowing how to work through the clients process to get to the other side.

Sure, that’s part of it, but the key is being able to do that while maintaining the quality and energy of your original idea … and that’s hard, exceedingly hard … but in a World where the spirit of fear has infiltrated corporations everywhere, it’s a skill that will not only grow in importance over time, but will also help separate your talent from the masses.

As I wrote here, one of the reasons I think Northern is so good is because he had to fight for every success he had … not just with clients, but internally.

That doesn’t come from always having ‘cool-shit ideas’, it comes from understanding business, viewpoints, influencers, prejudices and processes and then knowing how to navigate around them or – if you’re a bit of a devious shit like me – manipulate them, so that you can silence the doubters and enthuse the hopeful.

With your ‘cool-shit ideas.

As good as working on brands like NIKE, Converse, Beats, Chrysler, P&G etc is … I honestly believe my past experiences of failure, disaster, confusion, confrontation and pain helps me do better work for them and makes me a better person for them to work with.

Which basically means that if you’re offered a chance to work on another project or brand – even if it doesn’t sound great on first impression – take it.

It might not be fun at the time [though that’s as much up to you as it is to the client], but the lessons you’ll learn – be it what to do or what not to do – will serve you well in the future, over and over and over again.

PS: If you don’t see things changing or you don’t feel you’re learning or growing, then please [1] don’t hold me responsible, [2] re-assess what you’re doing or [3] leave … because something’s going majorly wrong and it’s either you, your job or Satan.

36 Comments so far
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the secret to good planning.

1) dont do any planning.
2) if you have to, keep your bullshit to yourself.
3) the end.

Comment by andy@cynic

and who are you saying suffers the pain and frustration. if you think its the planning boys and girls youre very fucking sadly mistaken. we have to listen to all the shit, thats more painful and frustrating than any fucking brand onion chart you can pull out your arse.

Comment by andy@cynic

Planner presentations. More painful than a Queen album.

Enough said.

Comment by DH

This joke has been running longer than Coronation Street.

Comment by Rob

So have Queen albums.

Comment by John

You keep adding more mileage to the joke every post.

Comment by DH

why dont you get a room with groper as you fucking love him so much. he wont want to go in it with you, but what others want has never fucking bothered you before.

Comment by andy@cynic

anyone new to this blog. the above comment does not mean campbell is a rapist. he might have stolen my a fuckload off me and from me, but hes no bbc employee.

Comment by andy@cynic

Or more specifically, Radio 1/Top of the pops presenters.

Who is going to be next, Bruno Brooks?

Comment by DH

I thought he’d stopped writing about planning shit ages ago.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Calling this ‘planning shit’ is a compliment because planners just call it ‘pointless shit’.

Comment by Rob

by the way campbell, this is pretty good advice. not just for planners. no i cant fucking believe im being so fucking positive either.

if youve only been doing adland shit for a few years, you have no fucking idea what youre good at or capable of. doing the shitty is fucking important. makes you pay your dues and makes you see if youre any fucking good because the job is to make all the shit interesting, not only the glamour brands. of which theres maybe 10 in the world. closely guarded and protected by the fuckers who worked their arses off to get to. and arent as fucking glam as you fucking think when you work with them for more than 2 bastard weeks.

i need to lie down. complimenting campbell has given me a headache and dr johnnie walker has to pay me a long fucking visit.

Comment by andy@cynic

This is great. Not the night with alcohol, your point about not knowing if you’re any good if you’ve never worked on something really challenging.

Comment by Pete

I think you need to get Dr Walker to come over more often because strip away the swearing and aggression and this is a really good point. Especially what working on ‘glamour brands’ can be really like.

Comment by Rob

Great advice Rob. I was working in Asia in 2002 and with hindsight, it was one of the most valuable experience for my career because it was so frustrating.

Unlike you, I never got to make good work, it was just brutal and annoying and unsatisfying all the time. Then one day it changed, a client (HSBC surprisingly) said yes to some work we really loved and I realised I’d gone through a hard apprenticeship that equipped me with skills (including resilience) to move to the next stage of my career.

We all want to get to the good seats the moment we enter the advertising theatre but the good seats are only good because of the pain and frustration you’ve gone through otherwise you don’t realise how good they actually are.

Comment by Pete

Sorry for the terrible analogy.

Comment by Pete

so after google wave you guys must feel god-like then?

Comment by niko

They weren’t lucky enough to be part of that disaster. If they were, they knowledge they’d of gained would make them President of the USA.

To be fair, wave wasn’t the issue – it was a good product – but how they positioned and marketed it [reusing their gmail schtick] was both out of date, irrelevant and boring.

By the way, it’s lovely that you’re back commenting.

Comment by Rob

Then you ended up working with Rob. Do you consider that career progression or more training via pain and frustration?

Comment by DH

And yes, that analogy was rubbish.

Comment by DH

I think it was called ‘career suicide’. Then he met George who was his ‘career lifesaver’.

Comment by Rob

I consider it a test of character and survival. I’m still not sure if I passed or failed.

Comment by Pete

“Silence the doubters and enthuse the hopeful.”

Best bit of business advice I’ve ever read.

Comment by Bazza

Yes, that is rather good. I will be including that within my broad repertoire of pithy management expressions.

Comment by Lee Hill

Excellent post by the way Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

Very kind Baz. I wish I could say it was meant, but as with most things I write on this blog, it was a stream of consciousness where anything half decent produced, is because the law of averages dictates I will pull off something semi-OK, f I keep trying long enough.

Though there’s some agencies out there that are proving that statement incorrect.

Comment by Rob

I take comfort in the fact that my experiences trying to help get a brand that has only ever done things one way (very badly) to move kicking and screaming to a better way will be worth it eventually!

If you’ve never seen a TV producers reaction when the client changes the entire execution after the directors have already sent their conceptsin with an unmissable air date looming… imagine Andy and Northern talking about planners and Mediaarts.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I love the way I’ve managed to con people into thinking I’m actually anything other than useless
And having worked on a minor ‘glamour brand’ I can fully support the premise that they’re actually harder work than the rest – its just that you get to work on something with a point, rather than just sliding up the MIllward Brand Pyramid

Comment by northern

Or having the Millward Brown Brand Pyramid slowly being slid up you.

Comment by Rob

So unbelievably wrong
In any case, still preferable to being raped by a Media Artist

Comment by northern

You hated that experience that much eh!

We need to meet one of these days and exchange horror stories. I think yours would beat mine by a country mile.

Comment by Rob

By the way I’m all for hard work and pain. Pixar apparently has a group ‘crit’ session every single morning where everybody is brutally honest with each other and the only rule is that criticism needs to be constructive with thoughts on how to develop what’s wrong.
It also means that organisations need to have staff that mingle and work TOGETHER all the time – which means no planners hiding in a corner talking to themselves and creatives telling everyone to leave them alone.
It also means that brainstorms with their ‘no criticism’ rules are actually counter-productive.

Comment by northern

I read this comment to my colleagues and they said,

“I bet Pixar don’t have someone as annoying as you working there.”

I think it’s because of my recent Instagram spurt … seriously, where has the sense of fun gone these days?

Comment by Rob

I have looked at Instagram and I have sympathies with their veiw.
Except that malingerer procrastinating on Facebook

Comment by northern

Would you think differently if they were on Youporn?

Comment by Rob

Only if it were in a client meeting

Comment by northern

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