Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A monkey can do it.

Unlike some of my more demure colleagues, I have no problem questioning the wisdom of a strategic brief, or of its author, the Planner. And why should I? After all, they question the validity of our work on a weekly basis.

Did I say weekly? I meant daily.

Because God knows creatives, even seasoned 44 year olds like myself, don't have the wherewithal to move forward and develop an advertising campaign without the daily watchful guidance and skilled expertise of a professional Planner with degrees in...what is it they have degrees in?

Point being, I've heard some awful stupid stuff from the Planning department.

Years ago, we were pitching Sparkletts water and to the credit of the crack research team and the careful analysis of all the big data, the Planner had successfully reduced the strategy down to its barest minimum. Not one page mind you, one word.


That's right, we, the cynics and jaded artisans in the creative department, were told to vigorously pursue and make hay out of the word BLUE.

Years later, I was working at a different agency, and I use the word different hesitantly because they're different in name only, and I balked at a different brief. I don't even remember what it was for, nor is that important. The sheer fact that I dared to question the logic of the brief brought about a completely unexpected response...

"Well Rich, I'll grant you that it's not the most insightful brief in the world, but they all can't be Got Milk? you know. It just doesn't work that way."

There's a new benchmark for underachievement. They all can't be Apple's 1984 or VW's Darth Vader, I thought, but that doesn't mean we don't try.

Recently I sat in on a meeting and heard the latest nugget for my collection. And this one my fellow copywriters can savor for years. A planner was heard to say...

"If we get this brief just right, the spots will literally write themselves."

Good thing this happened early in the morning and I was on an empty stomach, because had it transpired a few hours later in the day, I would have seen my lunch for the second time.

Spots do not write themselves. Nor do they rewrite themselves after the brief has changed. Nor do they rewrite the rewrites because someone in upper management doesn't like dogs. Or umbrellas. Or ketchup. Or seven. Or tweed. Or convertibles. Or love seats. Or oranges.

If it ever gets to a point where spots do write themselves, I'll be out of a job.

Of course, I could go into Planning, how hard can that be?


Théo said...

Planners got to be a thing because they originally came from London. And Americans will accept anything told to them in a British accent--even an accent that makes other Brits cringe. Once the "planner" line-item was accepted by clients, the jobs got filled by people with accents from places like Pensacola and Fullerton.

Anonymous said...

I know sometimes planners are annoying, sometimes they come up with nonsense and sometimes they think creatives are just robots who have to translate their half-baked ideas. But it's the same with creatives, they’re not all perfect either. Sometimes they wine about budget stuff but aren’t the ones telling the client he’ll have to pay double, sometimes they think no one who can’t draw could possibly have a creative mind and sometimes they get offended when they’re told that their work wasn’t quite as brilliant as they thought it was. It’s the way things are, seldom perfect but always human. Everybody tries to do his job and in the end some are more and some are less successful.
Anyway, I love your blog but no so much the recurring generalization about how all planners are pretty much idiots. And not because I’m a planner (I’m not) but rather because I don’t think it’s true at all.

Rich Siegel said...

I agree on all counts, Anonymous. I'll be the first to my admit that sometimes my shit stinks (another recurring theme here on R17). And you can call me cranky pants. But the truth is, I can and could do my job better, more efficiently and with greater results if I did not have to answer to Planners, what planners put on paper, and what Planners think they bring to the table. I just can. Hence the floggings will continue.

Jason Busa said...

Great post, Rich. I think most planners are fine on research and information gathering but weak on strategy. I can't remember the last time I didn't read a brief then promptly toss it in the trash. But some of my best friends have been planners so I hate to sound offensive. I just don't think they should be spending 4 weeks to craft a brief and will invariably be ignored. Btw, "Got milk" is a perfect example of insightful research from planners (consumer's fear of milk deprivation) and a brilliant creative idea. Still, at the end of the day, execution is everything. The most brilliant planning in the world is worthless without a compelling execution. Even a multimillion dollar fighter jet is worthless without a great pilot. (I must add that a few planners I've known should have been in the creative department since they frequently offered up great ideas.)

Anonymous said...

Do you find any value in planners?

I know that a lot of them can be really shitty at their jobs, but I've been around some creatives that I thought weren't worth shit either.

Rich Siegel said...

An excellent question Anonymous. Surprisingly, I do think they have value. In my old days at Chiat Day the brief/the direction/the work came from Lee Clow. He has this remarkable instinctual ability to know where the work should go and how to answer the clients problems. We would do the work. over and over again. until Lee was happy. then the planners were brought in to backwards engineer the strategy and set up statements. And there were some very good people at that job -- giving evidence to the insight, not uncovering it. I'll grant there are some very shitty creatives out there. I got lucky and worked at places where those people washed out pretty quickly.

Anonymous said...

So their value comes from being able to reverse engineer a strategy? then what's the point?

Jason Busa said...

Hello Anonymous. I definitely found value in planners. Their audience insights could be extremely valuable. But most briefs fell apart at the "singleminded proposition" which was usually triple- or quadruple-minded. And a number of times, I discovered that briefs were in fact written by clients and just re-worded by the planners. Regarding talentless prima donna (shit) creatives, yes... I've known enough to fill a gymnasium. Most of them CD's. In fact, I wrote a blog post about them back in June 2013. Google: "The Bad Creative Director's Playbook" (Sorry Rich for plugging my blog).

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. I think any planner that just rewords a client brief is borderline useless. I only ask about the value of planners because it seems like every creative blog just shits on them constantly. I want to know, as a planner, where I can add value to them.