Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mental masturbation

I won't beat around the bush.

When it comes to ad agency Planning, I don't get it.
Newsflash, I don't ever plan to get it.

I don't want to offend anyone, but in the twenty plus years --oh shit, now it's twenty five plus years --I've been in the business I have never depended on the Planning Department, and whatever it is they do, to inch me any closer to a creative solution.

Not once.

And I have been forced to sit through thousands of Planning Department briefings.

In the automotive world, I've heard the word "luxury" dissected 18 ways 'til Sunday.

In the technology world, "innovation" has been picked over like a dead water buffalo under the Serengeti sun.

Once, while pitching Sparklett's water, our MBA-enhanced Planner with the grating British accent graced us with his business acumen and told us the strategy was all about "Blue." (This can be corroborated by several R17 readers.)

By the way, Blue was the result of a two month-long 'deep dive' and a five-city tour of focus groups that I believe included a trip to the planner's home town of West Kensington.

Years ago I was at an unnamed ad agency eavesdropping -- thank you open office plan -- in on a group of unnamed account planners and unnamed account executives talking about a unnamed brand of tortilla chips.

Personally, I don't see how a briefing about a low-interest tortilla chip could merit a meeting lasting more than 3 minutes, but this one went on longer than the Wolf of the Wall Street.

The ensuing question/answer/further discussion period was like an aural root canal.

"People like sharing tortilla chips."

"The spots should be about the _________ Tortilla Chip Moments."

"We need a tortilla chip manifesto."

Cue the sound of creative people rethinking their career choice.

And yet the inanity continues.

As you are reading this rather-restrained rant, there are conference rooms chock full of creatives who have just presented their ideas to a bunch of over-critical, over-thinking Planners, who are over-zealously picking it apart and measuring the work against some insipid set-in-stone briefing document.

As sure as the mustache under my nose, some 26-year old ex-sorority girl with a certificate in planning and two years of real world living, is chiming in with the ubiquitous:

"I like it. And I don't want to split hairs, maybe it's in the semantics, but (and here comes the phrase that kills all good ideas) I'm not sure it's on-strategy."

To which, just once, I wish one ballsy staff creative would simply rise to the occasion, stand up and reply:

"Maybe, the strategy is off-strategy."


Jeff said...

Planning is the long con of advertising. Back in a more innocent time - if there ever was an innocent time in advertising - a good account person (and there are about five of them in the business) used to provide insight into and answers about the consumer, their choices and habits. Now we have planners: the equivalent of the guy at the parking garage who stands by the ticket machine, and takes the ticket out and hands it to you when you pull in. It's a job, but not really a needed one. Still, those accents are lovely to listen to. And when they make the next great movie or television show about advertising, I'm sure Ewan McGregor, Daniel Radcliffe, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor and more will be lining up for the choice planner role.

dave trott said...

What you guys call 'British' accents are only heard in the planning dept.
Posh accents, maybe 10% of the country.
In the creative dept everyone has regional (working class) accents.
Watch films like 'Lock, Stock, and 2 Smoking Barrels' or 'Snatch'.
That's what most of us sound like.

Roy Brooks said...

Once more a single pithy observation from the imitable Mr Trott sums up the British ad industry