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

Who Are Planners Kidding?
July 23, 2013, 6:08 am
Filed under: Comment

I’ve written in the past how much it annoys me when planners say “they’re curious” as if they’re the only people in society who are possessors of that trait.

Seriously, police officers, lawyers, doctors, scientists – and probably my Mum – embrace curiosity more in their lives than the average planner.

That’s not meant to piss on the discipline that has given me – and hopefully continues to give me – such an interesting life, but just to highlight that for all the talk we make about ‘being intellectually curious’, we don’t tend to find things that fundamentally changes or challenges the way we work or the things we achieve through our work.

Sure, there’s some people that achieve it … sure, there’s a bunch of reasons why things don’t happen as much as they could or should … but for the amount of planners out there in the World, the amount of things we fundamentally change through our ‘curiosity’ is small.

Maybe the ugly, unspoken truth is that unlike people in say, Silicon Valley, planners tend to be only curious about the things that are already out there, not the things we could discover or create off our own efforts.

As the quote above says, anyone can run towards the light, it’s the people that actively turn towards the dark that can be deemed the truly curious.

As I said, this is not meant to piss on the planning discipline – we do a lot of really good, important and valuable things – but maybe we wouldn’t be so discounted by so many if we didn’t keep banging on about things that we – as a discipline – so rarely demonstrate in our work, at least in a way that is fundamentally different to everyone else.

Another reason why I value planners who have empathy rather than those who say they’re curious and can only demonstrate it through a brief or a powerpoint presentation.

God, I’m in a shitty mood today aren’t I. Sorry.

31 Comments so far
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Best planner post ever.

Comment by Billy Whizz

oh it’s better than that.

Comment by John

Much, much better than that.

Comment by DH

This blog is much more agreeable when you’re shitty.

Comment by Billy Whizz

the difference between shitty campbell and normal campbell is smaller than a mosquitos cock but it makes all the fucking difference to the bollocks he writes.

Comment by andy@cynic

to answer the title of this post campbell, the answer is absofuckinglutely nobody.

Comment by andy@cynic

That’s sadly more accurate than even you intended.

Comment by Rob

i do hope the light youre asking planners to run towards in a train.

Comment by andy@cynic

Not sure how to phrase this, but maybe the Silicon Valley level of impact could be made by planners if they publlicised their insights beyond the life-time and scope of an advertising campaign.

Comment by John

dont fucking encourage them doddsy. besides, the only media outside of adland that would give the slightest fuck is train spotters weekly.

Comment by andy@cynic

That’s why they have blogs.

Comment by DH

Sadly you might be right.

Comment by Rob

That’s a pretty harsh overview Rob. I understand what you are saying and there is a very high degree of truth to it, but in today’s agency structure, could a planner ever have the freedom, budget and support to explore the unknown?

I know you found ways to make it happen but not everyone is blessed with your skills of negotiation and manipulation.

Comment by Pete

Negotiation and manipulation. Nice work Pete.

Comment by DH

Smart point Pete. Though to be fair to Robert, I believe he is referring more to the general attitude of planners than their ability to execute which in that definition, I fully agree with him.

Comment by George

That is a fair point, but I stand by the view that most agencies want their planners fully utilized so unless a client is paying for them to look in to the unknown, they are unlikely to allow them to do it.

I get that too few planners put their agencies in that position to say no, but it’s not all their fault.

Comment by Pete

Sometimes the brief is not necessarily to change the world, but neither is it to produce a thirty second commercial.

I agree, Rob, that many of today’s planners, especially the younger ones, are too caught up in the ‘fashionability’ of marketing communications and lose sight of what can be done beyond ads, or messaging in general.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to do a few things that may have led to some ads, but didn’t start out there.

A couple of examples …

Back in the 80’s I rewrote all the pack copy for Dulux and turned it back into plain English. So when people tried to read ‘what it says on the tin’, they could actually understand it.

I like to paint, but I figured if I couldn’t make sense of a single bloody word of what was on the label, what with all the jargon and invented ‘marketing’ words, then other people probably couldn’t either. Sometimes empathy starts at home …

A bit later on, I got Shell to launch a new ‘flavour’ of petrol in Australia, which was no mean feat.

It was a compromise between the (then) high lead and the newer unleaded fuels being introduced, intended for those people whose (older) car still needed leaded fuel, and who didn’t have the option of getting the engine converted or buying a new car.

There was a huge amount of PR at the time ‘unleaded’ was being phased in, talking about how bad lead is for children’s brains. And it was all true, it’s lethal stuff. However, as you’ve noted before, it’s all very well ‘guilting’ people, but not if they’re stuck and can’t actually do anything about it.

As a general rule, poorer people tend to own older cars, so they were the ones most affected. Working mums and dads, stuck in old bombs, but increasingly worried about the effect on their kids.

The personal trigger for getting stuck into this was my ownership of an old Jaguar which ran only on leaded fuel. So, a basis of curiosity and self-interest, but not totally selfish. Again, empathy started at home.

I knew the engine would be fine running on 90mg of lead per litre, but leaded fuel in Australia had way more – 180mg at that time. (‘Not a lot of people know that’, said Michael Caine)

So I eventually finagled the Shell engineers into a meeting, and asked them whether they could make a fuel with ‘just enough’ lead. “Yes” they said, “in fact we are planning to reduce the amount we use, because our new unleaded base fuel is higher octane so we don’t need as much.” “Were you going to tell anyone?”, I asked? “No” they said, “Why would we want to do that?”

“You should” I said, “Because …” So we did. We launched ‘Half Lead’ as a new brand early in 1991. It was only available in Melbourne and Sydney, where Shell had refineries and could control production and distribution. Market share (for leaded fuel) increased dramatically in those two markets. Great! Job done! Nice ad, too! (A girl in a beautiful old Falcon convertible, with Hollies singing ‘the air that I breathe’- it’s probably kicking around somewhere on Youtube).

Much more satisfyingly – as a father of three very young kids at the time – between May and September 1991, the level of airborne lead pollution in Sydney dropped 30%.

Not a bad result for a simple ad planner.

So – to return to your original thought – my advice is that as a planner you should be interested in the world around you, not just the world of advertising. Follow your passions, and interests. Learn, know stuff, all sorts of stuff – no knowledge is ever truly wasted. Then, when the opportunity comes along, think about how you can use what you know, and how that just might help make things a little better for other people, too.

If all you know is ads, you’re not much help in solving bigger problems.

Forgive the length of my reply, but I hope the examples make for a better story. Next time I’ll just abuse you and leave, like everyone else …

Comment by Ian Gee

I assume you were bored Ian.

Not because your comment is bad [obviously it isn’t, it’s toptastic] but because I can’t quite believe anyone would give put in so much time and attention to convey their viewpoint and experiences on here. I’m grateful.

Comment by Rob

Idle, maybe. Bored, never.

Thanks to you for providing a place and a stream of thought-provoking posts for us to comment on.

(I know that isn’t very abusive, but what the hell, I’m feeling kind today).

Comment by Ian Gee

You won’t get very far with that attitude.

Comment by Rob

Once upon a time we made great plans; the world moved at the speed of light, possibilities seemed endless.Now strategies are bought and paid for as we “market” to a dumbed down society, reliant on technology and sadly lacking any sense of wonder.

Holy crap – a one paragraph rant! 🙂

Comment by Notes To Ponder

Based on this, I hope you’re in a bad mood in Korea.
I’m a bad mood, layers of darkness over a white hot core of rage.
And no, it’s not because of the new UK porn filtering laws

Comment by northern

In fact, it’s much to do with the bosses wife and a despotic decisions to base the agency brand (is if anyone cares) on CURIOSITY.

Comment by northern

No, no, no, no, noooooooo!!!

Comment by Rob

You know that much maligned Darth Vader noooooooooooooo! edit, that’s me

Comment by northern

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