The national media devoured last week’s Campaign Lifestyle and Salary
survey. Sadly, no-one seemed interested in the findings on widespread
sexism, nor even that a startling 44 per cent of notoriously
Conservative-leaning agency employees would vote Labour. Instead,
headlines went to the remarkable statistic that under a third of people
working in the industry, and only 17 per cent of planners, believe that
‘most advertising works’.
Well that’s planners for you, was the almost universal response. Agency
cynics have long questioned just how much many planners believed in what
they were doing. Now it’s apparent so many of them don’t, that feeling
appears to have some basis in truth.
If so, it is a sad reflection not just on planning but the wider
business. Planners - supposed act as the consumer’s voice in the
advertising process - are expressing dissatisfaction with an end
product, which is too often pulled and sanitised out of all recognition
by indulgent creatives, an over-reliance on pre-testing and scared
clients. Thus does so much wallpaper end up as advertising - or should
that be the other way around?
But the planner statistic may also be viewed positively. It is planners
who best know how little impact so much advertising has. The desultory
percentage could be a sign that many planners know there is an
alternative to safe advertising. It is why they campaign for a greater
emphasis on the strategic idea over the pretty execution; and why they
regard the IPA Effectiveness Awards so highly.
This finding should not spark another round of planner bashing, but
ought to stop the industry in its tracks because it plays into the hands
of advertising’s greatest sceptics - companies’ finance directors. The
industry should get on with developing a uniform methodology for
measuring the efficacy of ads, so that the business - planners included
- can argue the case for the advertising in which it believes.