Thursday, August 23, 2007

It's funny, the more I practice, the luckier I get...

The great Gary Player, possibly the best bunker player ever. The picture's from justaregularbloke. Usual rules, etc.

Regular, or astute readers will know that I hold golf very dear to my heart (yes, I'm actually 55, just masquerading as a 23 year old). I think only Dino and myself play the game on the plannersphere. The above quote is from one of the greats of the game, Gary Player, and it came about when a journalist asked him how he was so good out of bunkers.

It's a classic. And very true, and relevant to a lot of how I think people should be generally.

I'm crap at drawing. But I bet you that if I practiced (yes, Zero, I'll get round to it eventually), I'd get much much better. It's that fear of failing (and not having a lot of time at the moment) which keeps me from doing more.

And that's a nonsense, when you think about it. How the hell can I talk about something, say discuss creative thinking, when I've never ever really tried to do it myself? I mean, I can talk with some reasonable authority on the topic of web design and HTML, as my belaboured efforts in the mid 90s (now happily lost in the mists of AOL Press and Altavista) show. I might not be able to code properly, but at least I can root my thinking and discussion in something.

Now, I'm all for people trying for integration in agencies (even though, at times, it risks being a massively overused buzz word, up there with viral and web 2.0). But for God's sake, don't try and tell me you're an integrated planner/account handler/creative if you've never ever done what you claim to be integrated in yourself - knowing the mechanics of DM, being aware/having tried coding of some description, and most importantly, knowing how businesses work. Most people are culpable of this. Indeed, I think planners (and junior planners, in particular - I include myself in this critique) spend too much time in the theoretical and not enough time in the practical.

It's why I praise artists, account handlers and people who have to physically deliver the goods. Sure, I can spout Barthesian theory, come up with convoluted theories about twitter, or debate, ad infinitum, about where the agency model is going. But it matters not a jot if I've not done the legwork beforehand. Physically gone and seen how different cultures live, act and are, along with people in different jobs. No, I'm not contending that I should spend a year learning the intricacies of, say a job clientside which is wholly different to what I'm going to do in my job.

But I completely reject the notion that a simple factory visit, say, is enough to get under the skin of how a product is made - it's like me watching some Spanish language TV and claiming to be able to speak fluent Spanish on the back of it. No, no no. Just not true.

Ultimately, you have to be able to do more than empathise. You have to be able to have done, or at least attempted things. And keep doing them. THAT'S what makes a good planner, or indeed 'Wannabe Ad Man', whatever the stage in their career.

It's partly why I want to play a big part in Ad Grads, a blog I'm helping co-author. I don't want a generation of ad folk to live in the theoretical, especially those who look at planning and think 'ah yes, that sounds pretty hands off - I could do that'. Getting your hands dirty and learning from a wide range of sources should be prized like never before, especially given media's divergence. If you can actually say 'oh, I've coded x' or 'Yeah, I can illustrate Y' as an account handler, say, it should be oh so useful. And THOSE people will change the industry. Not some cliche driven, marketing buzz word ad wannabe.

2 comments:

Daniel Mejia said...

Well, I agree with you. It´s kind of worrying that the new generations of ad men grow up thinking that planning is only about creating brand theories.

What you´re doing with AdGrads is something really valuable. Part of the planning job, I think, is to coach the creative team (like you said in a comment in Facebook, planners are the Creative Midwifes).

So, knowing a little something of what you are reviewing is definetly a plus. I have been a creative for a while, and I even had a gig as an account handler once (it´s sucked). This experience has been pretty valuable for me because has teached me what can I expect from creative teams (which obviously I expect it would be way better than if I would do it myself).

Anyway, I don´t think that having this kind of experience is a must for planners. But I do think that having some sort of skills for any creative expressions gives you some authority to send them the feedback.

And about the planning skills, it´s sure helps you a lot having some background in research. Personally, what I do is that I go once a month to some place in the city and I try to do an etnographic research. Now, I´m thinking about starting to do some coolhunting (still don´t know how, but it will be matter of time). I do believe this will very useful for me when I land in a planning job.

Carl said...

Good post Will, You can add me to your list of golfers on the Plannersphere. A rather inconsistent handicap of 12

This post reminds me of the Pro who used to give me lessons when I was 14. No kidding, his name was Donald Slicer and one of his mantras was that practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

I'm not sure what agency analogy that conjures up but it's always stuck in my mind.

 
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