Archive for November, 2009
As some of you may know, recently a few of us in the planning community got the chance to attend a new sort of un-conference called Planning-ness, where we didn’t just sit around listening to people talk at us, but we actually did stuff. For example, starting to create the new planner toolkit in quick and dirty fashion. I think I can speak for all in attendance when I say it was a fantastic and inspiring weekend, and one that we’re all thrilled we attended. And we were all ready to get back to work.
I wanted to walk in on my first day back in the office after Planning-ness and start implementing some of the things we spent the weekend talking about.
One month later, and I’ve gotten little chance to do that (my guess is, some of my fellow planners share this pain). Sad as it may be to make this excuse, the craziness of daily business got in the way. Firedrills to be attended to, POVs that need to be written, new business decks that need to be prepared. It’s easy to make excuses.
But it’s exactly the thing I don’t want to do. I think all of us that were a part of Planning-ness would agree that daily work craziness aside, we don’t want that to get in the way of the changes we all spent so much time talking about and working on that weekend. Somehow, someway, we need to find a way to bring it to fruition. Not just for us, but for the future of the industry and for the betterment of our client relationships.
So how do we best do this? How do we balance the insanity of the daily needs of our industry while still trying to implement new tools, new processes, new ideals, new ideas, and new thinking? By no means easy, but necessary. And as I started thinking about it more, I wonder if the best way isn’t to bring clients into the early process as well.
Not easy, and sometimes not pleasant. But after all, no one benefits if we spend 3 weeks coming up with an evolved model for brand frameworks or a new way of thinking about the archaic ‘purchase funnel’ only to have clients shoot it down in a 1 hour meeting. Why not put some of the accountability and responsibility back on them? We’re partners, right? I know it’s naive to think every client will come along for the ride with us, but let’s imagine that this is the moment we try to convince them.
Here are a few ways I think that we could do that:
Invite smart clients into the discovery phase- early.
Perhaps this is blasphemy for some. Inviting clients into the creative process? But at Planning-ness I got to participate in a fantastic session put on by the smart folks at (aptly named) SmartDesign, during which they talked to us about the fact that every research project and every discovery phase incorporates every party involved- including client, strategist, designer, etc. Bringing everyone in, and letting everyone feel some sense of ownership over the process, in my opinion, could make our whole industry process feel more collaborative, more informal, and in general just help it to work better.
Create the new brand framework (which doesn’t need to be just one model) with your clients, arm in arm.
I know agency folks get incredibly protective and territorial (even internally) when it comes to what we create, but it feels like it may be time to rid ourselves of that nonsense. We don’t create priceless pieces of art– we are trying to build our clients’ business. Whether that’s through sparking talk value or direct calls to action, the end is the same. If we don’t move the business needle, we failed ourselves, and we failed our clients. So it only makes sense we’re all in agreement on and working towards the same goal. If we can build the new brand model together, it can only make for a better and more collaborative relationship and experience.
Find the one client representative who will champion the idea of failing hard- then learning.
I’ve been blessed enough to work with a few individual clients (individuals, not just brands) who were willing to come along with me on collective ideas and sell through things we both knew could fail despite best intentions. But through all of our work together, and desire to succeed, they put themselves out there on behalf of us and helped sell things through, and in the end we were able to make inroads into the client org that would’ve otherwise been impossible.
Have the hard conversations early, and often.
It’s not exactly easy to tell your $100 million client that many of the things they’ve been doing (much of which we may have been telling them to do, or are currently telling them to do) is broken, but it’s necessary for change. We talk often about wanting to be business partners to our clients, and not just viewed as vendors who make ads. But if that is to be the case, then I think we need to truly act as business partners, which to me means making difficult decisions, having uncomfortable conversations, and taking tough actions. To me the earlier the hard conversations happen, the earlier we can weed out the clients who are not ready to work with us (or who we’re not ready to work with).
Stop trying to sell ideas that only work on old theories of needing massive $$$ to work
We’ve long talked about the simple idea of ‘outsmart vs outspend’ when it comes to what we do. And that was in the day when TV and print were the two biggest and really only options. So it’s a bit odd that years later, when we have so many more options with which to provide value to people beyond spending a ton of money shouting more and more loudly, often times our industry still ends up doing the latter. Let’s actually try living the idea of doing lots of little things that build up to a bigger point of view. Let’s finally stop with the BS.
I have no delusions about things changing overnight, or even next month, or even in the next 6 months. But I think we can all agree, planners or not, that things are not working in anyone’s definition as of this moment. What I do hope is that next year at this time, whether we’re all gathered again at Planning-ness or at that other planning conference, that we can all point to clear pieces of evidence that show what we did on that weekend in October 2009 planted the seeds of change for an industry.
I hope that we all can look back at the year behind us and feel like we, at least in some way, were successful at making some new things happen.
The fine art of separating people from their money (Hermann Vaske)
On the difference between art and advertising:
Art sets out to create something that a million people will interpret in a million ways. Advertising sets out to create something that a million people will all interpret in exactly the same way (Shane Hutton, Modernista!)
On the creative process in advertising:
Trying to create a complicated dance. Inside a phone booth. (Again, Shane)
On the creative process in traditional vs. digital media:
“A good idea is a good idea is a good idea.” (Mike Gatti, Barbarian Group)
On the impact of new media in advertising:
The impact of the digital age compares, in art history, to the advent of new tools, and that of new techniques. A new medium includes a bit of both. (Howard Goldkrand, Modernista!
On egos in advertising:
“These people call themselves art director, creative director. Not even God himself called himself creative director” (Oliviero Toscani)
Michael Jordan had a “love of the game” clause inserted into his contract to play pick-up basketball any time. Meanwhile, Rossini required absolute necessity to compose – he wrote the overture to Othello only after his producer locked him in a room, gave him a plate of spaghetti, and told him he would only be let out once he finished his work. (random research)
On creative thinking:
“There is no such thing as creative thinking. There is only thinking. But real thinking is so rare that when we encounter it, we feel the need to celebrate the occasion with a special adjective.” (Francis Cartier)
These seemingly unrelated thoughts come from the thesis I submitted last December when I graduated from Emerson College. I had all but forgotten about the whole thing until last week, when I realized that Matt Stein, whom I interviewed for the thesis, was sitting a few desks away from me, freelancing at M! So I went back to my hefty document and dug up these little nuggets to share.
By the way, the thesis itself dealt with the creative process in advertising and how (if at all) new media is affecting it. The process turns out to be no different, but creatives have to draw from an understanding of digital culture in order to create for it.
This morning I woke up to “Morning Express w/Robin Meade” on HLN. Its become a sort of embarrassing part of my morning routine filled with a bit a weather, top news, and meaningless chatter.
Somewhere in between running to grab a coffee in the kitchen and heading back to my bedroom I heard Robin Meade mention briefly that a female had been appointed head coach for an NBA team.
Wait…Huh? When did and more importantly how did this happen?
Perhaps I was dreaming. I checked CNN, ESPN, NY Times, no avail. Then a simple google search, “female head coach nba” affirmed what I had thought.
“A news conference is scheduled Thursday to introduce Lieberman as the first coach of the team that will begin play during the 2010-11 season in Frisco, a suburb about a half-hour north of downtown Dallas.” (via AP Story)
Okay, so its a “D-league” team and I’m not a terribly huge fan of basketball, but this is monumental. MONUMENTAL.
Of course I have all kinds of questions about this, for example:
Will the players respect her?
Were there ulterior motives because she was female?
What happens if she slaps one of her players on the ass?
Its friday, its kind of chilly at my desk, and a woman was just appointed head coach of an NBA’ish team.
Wake up. This is big.
Go Nancy. Go.
In 2007, Filene’s Basement, apparently a Boston tourist attraction, closed its doors. A stalled $700 million redevelopment project has left a rather depressing hole in the ground, with not much being done to restore the building or the surrounding area.
With the economy in such a pathetic state, this kind of disruption in development is fairly commonplace in urban areas. Is there anything that transitional real estate can be used for while developers sort things out? Howeler Yoon Architecture has proposed erecting an algae farm and vertical garden on the old Filene’s Building.
Looks pretty crazy, eh? The pods contain algae-incubators which produce biofuel. In between the pods it is possible to plant and create vertical gardens, like the 2,380 square foot garden on the side of the PNC building in Pittsburg. The pods can be configured in several ways depending on the given building. The U.K.’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers recently released a report that suggested such pods could help mitigate climate change. Nice.