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the future of planning

Planners must model themselves on the best Pro Golfers

adam&eveDDB CSO asks planners to swing into the future with 'unchanging tenets' and 'changing tools'

By martin beverley

It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.

It’s even more difficult when you need to look clever alongside the other planners who have already answered this question.

Here’s my TLDR hot (ok, tepid) take: the future of planning will have unchanging tenets and changing tools.

Allow me to explain…

In many ways, the fundamentals of the future of planning won’t change. We’ll always need to make it true, make it simple, make it interesting, make it effective.

We will always need to make it true. Planners must be in perennial pursuit of the truth. To snuffle for those truth truffles, we will need to get under the skin and inside the brains of the sapiens who might buy the stuff we are selling. Many of those truths will be timeless, because they are about human beings being human. As Bill Bernbach said: “It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man. With his obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of his own.”

We will always need to make it simple. Planners must synthesise and sacrifice until there’s a clear path through the complexity and the crap. Simple as that. As Leonardo Di Vinci said, when he wasn’t busy painting or sculpting; ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’.

We will always need to make it interesting. Planners must find the interesting in the uninteresting. Most advertising is beige wallpaper that people pay not to look at. No one cares about what we have to say, so we have to find a way to make them care. As Howard Gossage said; ‘People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad’.

We will always need to make it effective. Planners must appreciate that we are in the business of commercial creativity. That means fundamentally understanding that brands are always in service of businesses. It also means that we must constantly prove the added value that we bring or risk becoming surplus to requirements. And by ‘added value’, I almost definitely mean bunce, moolah, dollar bills, y’all. As David Ogilvy said; ‘We sell, or else’.

However, whilst the tenets of the future of planning won’t change, the tools will change.

My analogy here is the epitome of cutting-edge-cool – professional golf. (Note to reader: I appreciate this might be the end of our dalliance). The fundamentals of the golf swing are a timeless combination of technique, tempo and torque. However, the best golfers in the world today embrace the very latest technological advancement in equipment and data analysis to optimise their performance. Ben Hogan meets Bryson DeChambeau.

The future of planning must embrace the future of technology. With a nice warm cuddle.

We must embrace new channels. Don’t dismiss TikTok as silly dancing. Don’t dismiss Snapchat as disappearing dick pics. Don’t dismiss Twitch as teenagers in their bedrooms. And while you are at it, don’t dismiss telly and posters as too traditional.

We must embrace AI. Oh come on, you simply can’t write an article without at least a mention. It’s Terminator-levels-of-terrifying if you are of an anxious disposition like me, but we have to run towards it. It might not take your job, but people who know how to harness it might. For now, at least, it can gather filler so that you can hunt for the killer, and it can give you start points when you are stuck. (Shameless Plug - I thoroughly recommend the APG’s new AI taskforce).

We must embrace new research methods that help us understand people’s behaviour. That might mean ethnographic studies through mobile phones. That might mean a more complex attribution model that at least attempts to account for the messy middle. That might mean using physiological studies and the latest neuroscience techniques to see how people think and feel (not what they say they think and feel).

We must embrace new metrics. Let's investigate how emotional responses relate to effectiveness results. Let's figure out whether it really is all about attention. Let's dig into share of search as a predictor of market share. Let's read the Charles Channon IPA effectiveness special prize winners.

If the future of planning can bring together old-fashioned principles with new-fashioned technology, then we won’t go far wrong.

And that’s all, folks.

Martin Beverley is the chief strategy officer at adam&eveDDB.


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