Something has started to distress me about the future of planning and strategy in advertising agencies.

And that is whether there will be any one left that can actually do the job.

I mean the real job of being a planner, the job of imagining new futures of the brands that clients ask us to nurse, nurture, accelerate and amplify.

I have long argued that while there are many ways strategists add value to their agencies and the business of their clients, the greatest contribution that we make is taking those brands to new places in the lives and minds of their customers. It is our ability to help brands and businesses re-invent the future that makes us most useful.

And yet I am beginning to lose count of the number of planners I come across in my wanderings that don’t want to do that. That either are not interested at all or who have little idea that this is what they are supposed capable of doing.

These planners seem to want to do one thing and one thing alone, something that they call making things.

Now I’m not against making things at all. I love John Willshire’s mantra to ‘make things people want not make people want things’ as much as the next person and I milked the Nike Fuel Band case study in conference speeches right up to the moment it was canned. I love making things and the ability of agencies to help clients in service design, product innovation and what we might call ‘tangible marketing’ is a powerful new capability that many of us are thoroughly enjoying.

But it’s the fascination with making stuff to the exclusion of all else that has me profoundly worried about plannerkind. You can see the vice like grip the idea has over younger planners for whom making something cool, funky and inconsequential seems more fun than having an actual commercial effect.

Because making stuff without making meaning is, in a word, meaningless. And it is making meaning for brands and businesses that is our actual day job, everything else is tactics ladies and gentlemen!

Image courtesy of rawdonfox



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