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Planning the Future of Planning

Admap prize

A while back I wrote a paper to enter the ADMAP Future of Planning contest. 

I was shortlisted, which was nice. 

You can and should check out the winning papers. They are awesome and wise.

Nick Hirst [DARE] GOLD wrote an excellent paper on the division in strategy and how [user] Experience Planning provide a model to both understand behavior and architect holistic brand experiences. 

His perspicacious analysis of the strengths, and corresponding weaknesses, of brand planning ['conceptual planners'] and media planning ['practical planners'] is enlightening and rings true to me, having been on both sides at various points. If you have a hammer etc..

[As an aside

{I feel like it's been a while since I've been paranthetical.}

- I think everyone who works in advertising should spend time working at the other side of the fence if they can: creative, media, digital whatever. It really helps.

We need polymath thinkers to build holistic solutions in complex times.

Also we'd probably be more forgiving and less prone to fundamental attribution errors.] 

Tom Woodnut SILVER wrote about Mutuality Planning - that the job of the planner is to broker a mutually beneficial solution - an equitable value transfer - between brands and people. 

[He kindly credits a [poorly titled] post from TIGS back in 2006 as something he drew on.] 

Phillipa Dunjay BRONZE wrote that in a world where data mining will be able to predict who buys what when, the role of the planner will no longer be to mine for insights,

[Remember - there's no such thing as an insight - they are a kind of reifed strategic currency we use as an industry, no doubt useful but not technically that kind of noun, there's no THING called an insight, insight describes a quality or process of developing a deep and intuitive understanding of something.] 

[Once the square brackets come out it's hard to control them.]

but instead to find and foster microcultures around the brand for ongoing development.

I'm aligned with this thinking.

The issues of strategic fragmentation are important and structural - we have created them ourselves.

The impact of technologies will continue to change, well, everything.

Dynamic data definitely impacts the Platonic ideal of insight in some ways. Vocal communities of the interested, if you can find them, are our allies.

[See earlier caveats re: insights and square brackets]

The questions I was reaching towards are, perhaps, epistomelogical. 

How does advertising work? How do we make [purchase] decisions? 

How do we know? What if we have it wrong?

It's something I've been thinking and writing about for a couple of years, which is why it references a bunch of previous stuff I've published for discussion.

There has been lots of interesting experimental work in this area, most importantly by Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman, captured beautifully in his magnum opus Thinking Fast & Slow [this is required reading, no excuses.]

The dynamic interactions between System 1 and System 2, or the unconscious and conscious if you like, and the impact that non-conscious elements have on decision making, have led scientists to dub this 'the new unconscious' [to distance it from the largely dismantled Freudian repression model of the subconscious or ID]. 

This is not to be reductive - clearly what we think has an impact on what we buy, but it's far from the only driver, nor is it, seemingly, the most important. 

In fact, some go as far to describe your experience of consciousness as an epiphenomen - something is being created by something else, rather the author of our actions. 

Experience of Conscious Will

This directly challenges the fundamental model underlying advertising: AIDA.

So... that's something we should probably be thinking about..right?

I tried to map out some approaches based on the science as I understand it, borrowing heavily from Feldwick and Earls and Kahneman and Heath and Watts and lots of other people. 

Since part of the role of planning is to bring rigor to communications - to inform and help the work, work, - it occurs to me we also need to be thinking, more than ever in light of this stuff, about HOW and WHY it works. 

[The role of strategy is to decide if we need any advertising, but that's another discussion.] 

In fact, here you go - here's the paper. Forgive the title. 

Download Choose the Future - Faris - ADMAP prize

I would really love your thoughts here - our explorations are just beginning. 

I was very recently gladdened to read that I'm not the only person to suggest that Kahneman's work challenges the very fundamentals of advertising. 

One of the smartest minds we have - and definitely one of our most eloquent - Laurence Green, formerly of Fallon London and founding partner of 101London recently wrote this in his Telegraph column.

Professor Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002 for his work debunking the myth of rational decision-making that underpins so much of the “dismal science” and, indeed, broader government policy.

Ten years later, his thoughts are finally lapping at advertisers’ shores.

The implications of Kahneman’s lifetime’s work, now summarised in his best-selling book Thinking Fast and Slow, are as challenging to the advertising orthodoxy as any ponytailed art director’s more intuitive pronouncements (and, note well, they actually turn out to have much in common).


But, faced with an audience of advertisers, he couldn’t help but dispense a little impassioned advice:

You must recognise that most of the time you are not talking to System 2.

You’re talking to System 1. System 1 runs the show.

That’s the one you want to move.”

And it is here of course that his groundbreaking thinking butts against much ingrained marketing and advertising practice, which still adheres, consciously or otherwise, to the notion of “homo economicus”, or rational man.

Too many advertising briefs still set persuasion as their goal and modus operandi, tacitly assuming that the consumer can only be argued into desired behaviour.

They spring from organisations that “think slowly” (because no one ever got fired for System 2 thinking) but should, of course, start with the consumer, who, in most categories most of the time, is making choices impulsively.

Kahneman’s myth-busting also lights a bonfire under many of the advertising industry’s prevailing research methodologies, especially the rigidly structured quantitative variety. The very nature of “testing” creates conditions for System 2 responses when the category will actually be shopped to System 1.

Kahneman makes no prescriptions for the advertising industry, but his provocations should be taken up and debated by all responsible practitioners.

Thanks Lawrence!

Let's debate.