January 27, 2010

The Planning Controversy Continues

As I expected, I got a lot of push-back yesterday on my post about account planning. It seems to have come mostly from planners, which is also to be expected.

The comments seemed to fall into 5 primary areas. I'll sum up the crux of the criticism, then give a sample from a comment, then respond.

1. As a "creative chauvanist," how can I criticize account planning for being based on opinions...when this is exactly how creatives operate? An example from a commenter:
"... if we take out opinion-as-fact then really we negate the whole idea of creativity in advertising, which after all is about a creative's opinion on what is best, their opinion on what will work, their opinion on what people will like, the CD's opinion on what work is best."
I have no problem with opinions. I have big problems with opinions-masquerading-as-facts. Creativity doesn't pretend to be science. Planning does.

Nobody claims a creative execution is anything other than what it is. When it comes to planning, however, there is a lot of conjecture, interpretation, and speculation pretending to be facts.

2. How can I criticize planning for not having principles, when there are no principles for creativity? An example from a commenter:
"What are the principles of creative work? I think it's the most elusive thing in the world. You won't find two creatives that will give you exact principles as well."
There most certainly are principles for creativity in advertising. While every agency may have its own individual ideas, most creatives will agree that good creative work exhibits 1) simplicity 2) clarity 3) consistency.

Additionally, I believe that the underpinnings of successful advertising are most often found in these three principles. They are not principles for creating ads, but they are principles for creating ad strategy. What principles do planners use in developing strategy? I'd like to know.

3. How can I criticize planners when most creatives are idiots? As one planner put it:
"...who needs creatives - I could come up with better creative than countless campaigns I've seen..."
Yeah, right. Try it, dude. I'll give you 6 months and I'll bet you a thousand bucks you can't get a job as an agency creative. Put up or shut up.

4. How can I claim that creatives would be better off without a strategic foundation to what they are doing? Or as one commenter wrote:
"Show me creative directors that deliver positive results in a void from strategy and I'll gladly reconsider my career in strategy/planning."
These comments come from either low reading comprehension or willful twisting of my meaning. My post argues for better strategy not absence of it. As I said in my post: "Do we need research and data? Absolutely. Do we need reliable information about consumer behavior? Absolutely. Do we need people who can synthesize insightful strategies? Absolutely. Do we need amateur anthropo-psycho-sociologists? No thank you."

I'm tired of all the sidewalk psychology and brand babble that planners are stuck on.  I want strategies that focus on understanding behavior and how we can use persuasion to change it. Like it or not, that's the business we're in.

5.Finally, how can I criticize planning when I'm a fucking idiot? Okay, on this one you may have a point.

Just one more thing...
A few thousand people read my post yesterday. Not one was able to send us evidence that advertising created with the use of planning is any more effective than advertising produced without it. After 20+ years of planning, shouldn't there be some evidence that it works? If a car dealer told you that his special additive made your car get better gas mileage, how long would you continue to pay for it until you asked "how do I know this stuff works?"

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