a beginning of sorts

02Apr07

Hi.  This is the first post for Brand Tao. 

I’m a planner and work in London on advertising campaigns, brand development, consumer research and integrated comms. projects.  This is my first blog for the subject of account planning and brands .  But I’m sure it will also cover other subjects that interest me over time. 

I started to consider the idea of writing a blog after a lunch with John Griffiths (www.accountplanning.net) last Thursday.   He happened to mention to me that the IPA were hosting a debate that evening, with the motion being ‘Is blogging killing planning?’ 

Having the choice of an evening reading a very dull report on segmentation or one listening to some sparkling debate with John Lowery (planning tsar at Grey, http://almostnothing.typepad.com) and John Grant (ex St. Luke’s, author of The New Marketing Manifesto, now consultant, www.brandtarot.com). I went for the debate.

I paid for my ticket a couple of hours before the event (perhaps surprisingly, availability was assured) and I headed off to Belgrave Square. Apart from briefly considering running a study to find out if all planners aged over 40 are called John,  I had little to tax me on my journey. 

The contest and debate afterwards turned out to be rather disappointing.  The audience of Web 2.0 literate planners, journalists, a few creatives and, somewhat bizarrely, a hippie doctor from Australia, had mostly decided that blogs were no threat before the first words were even spoken.

 John Lowery put forward a well rehearsed (scripted in fact) case that demonstrated a clear logic and support for his proposition.  He told us that the end for planning was indeed nigh, if not very imminent, due to the lack of planning rigour in blogs. 

There was much remonstrating over a spurious training brief on The Account Planning School of the Web  (www.squidoo.com/planningschool/) that invited planners and have-a-go-heroes to try and save the cruising tourism industry through their response to a brief.  A brief that John Lowery demonstrated to be misleading, as the cruise industry is in rude health. 

However it seems the participating planners all managed to avoid reading or understanding the market data  and leapt off in irrelevant directions to save the industry regardless.  The cruise brief was possibly a fiction, intended as a hypothetical scenario rather than a factual case study exercise.  But we were left unsure of this point.

 John Lowery put in a detailed, considered and compelling, if somewhat dry performance, that perhaps was representative of his generation and pedigree.  But it failed to show the warmth and wit he possesses and that the audience of Planners-on-a-night-off probably needed if they were to be won over by his anodyne mind. 

In essence he was worried people interested in the subject of account planning , or junior planners who were looking for further training, might think planning blogs a relaible source for the gospel according to bonafide planners. 

You know, the sort  of planners who have  anecdotes that start with lines like ‘I’m steeped in the data’ or ‘I worry the brand ’til it screams a USP’ or ‘I once slept with Rosser Reeves’ or the enviable ‘Stanley Pollitt threw up on my shoes once.’

As for John Grant.  Well, to be honest, while he’d won the argument before he spoke, he did a fair job of trying to loose this advantage.   The case he put forward was poorly thought through (if at all?) and was muddled in its presentation.  He started with a digression about what American planners would think if we Brits voted against a modern tool like blogging.  The planners in the audience simply didn’t care.  But perhaps John Grant was playing a little to the journalists in the gallery?

After the arguments were laid before the audience, rather turged questions and a debate rattled on for an hour or so. 

This drew the 2 John’s increasingly into positions of  ‘I build the brief through distilling the evidence and providing a solid proposition’ versus ‘I read anything and everything and then think of a cool precipice for the creatives to leap from.’ 

I’ll leave you to work out which John represented each end of what could possibly be the same length of planning rope that they proceeded to tie themselves up with. 

 If you’d like to hear more details of the debate, the voting, etc..  You will find further info at Yet Another Planning Blog ( http://robinjaffray.blogspot.com/2007/03/planning-types.html ).

After the debate I abandoned hope of a decent curry and slunk off home for tea and medals.  The segmentation report got it’s revenge as I read it over coffee the next morning.  It was written by a guy called John. 

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