Feature

The Year Ahead for ... Account Planning

Tony Quinn recommends that adlanders drop the attitude in 2011 and foster a spirit of giving and sharing by embracing Generous Planning.

Blimey. Is it me or is everyone really angry?

And I don't just mean The Students, or Simon and Louis, or Mrs Rooney.

No, I mean "us", adland. Hardly a second seems to pass without an update or Tweet from someone, somewhere ranting and screaming about how rubbish everything is. Even as I write, I'm scrolling through a blogpost from one of the finest (and nicest) planners in London who I can only assume has been struck down with a case of blog-Tourette's. Either that or we really are all "fucking useless".

Another (equally fine and equally nice) planning head opens up one of his blog-posts with the title: "Who's to blame?" For what, I'm a little unsure. But, whatever it is, it's the "client community" that seems to be carrying the can for it. (Hmmm, "biting off the hand that feeds you" is an expression that springs to mind.) Moving further afield, a cursory glance around Twitter reveals such characters as "The Ad Contrarian" ("Cranky opinions and advice from the CEO of a pretty large ad agency"), "BitterAdGuy" ("I allow people to make educated decisions about crap they don't need by convincing them that they've always needed it"), the poetically named "Adwank" ("Stupid advertising speak I hear at work") and my personal favourite, "AdAnarchist", who felt the need to share his thought that "The new Tesco ad makes me want to sexhurt Amanda Holden more than ever". Nice.

In one sense, I get it (not about "sexhurting" Amanda Holden, I hasten to add). 2010 was undoubtedly a tough year, as was 2009 and 2008 before it. Economies melted down and entire countries sailed perilously close to bankruptcy as the true extent of the financial crisis emerged. The digital era that seemed to be forever dawning was suddenly among us, all of us, globally, as fast and rich mobile access became the stuff of the mainstream. And at the heart of it all, our consumers, our audiences, those who we know so well, with whom we built some of the most powerful, potent and famous brands in the world for some of the globe's most illustrious (and some less illustrious) businesses. There they were, these very same consumers and audiences, behaving like I don't know what, adopting different codes, different behaviours, with different expectations, different needs and different wants, making different decisions against very different criteria. It was all very different indeed, and we, the good folks of adland, were expected to make sense of it all - and for less money, most likely. Lordy, no wonder we've all been getting a bit tetchy from time to time.

However, taking all things into account, I think we've made a pretty good fist of things, despite appearing to be "fucking useless". This year's shortlisted IPA papers combined delivered £27 billion incremental profit for our clients. We could most probably have bought Ireland for that, and Greece. And you can't tell me that Old Spice, ESPN "replay", KitKat "mail" and "Perrierbydita" aren't all magnificent pieces of work, whichever era you compare them with (though I'm sure that someone will rant about how "shit they are"). You see, that's what we do when we are at our best: we adapt. We look, we think, we create, we test, we look again, think again, create again and so on; we innovate, we have ideas that don't just respond to change but thrive on it.

My point is quite simply this: while I think we're making a good fist of things, I suspect we could be doing a lot better if we dropped "the attitude", if we ditched the cynicism, the undermining, the poking and the ranting, and rechannelled all that energy into a new attitude of sharing and collective inspiration. I know it's tough out there and it will continue to be so in 2011. However, I'm pretty damned certain that we'll be better placed to grow and prosper if we work together to do so. And I predict we will in 2011. I predict 2011 will see a new mood in the industry, a mood that is more generous than the one that is currently on display.

I see 2011 as the year when we increasingly come together to address the issues of the industry and I see planners (and planning) at the forefront of this mood change, as the catalysts, the agitators. And it's not like we're not already doing it - anyone who follows Gareth Kay or Claude Silver or Mel Exon or JWT's very own Lee McEwan will know the spirit of giving and sharing is alive and well. It's just that I see 2011 as a bit of a tipping point. I'd love to see the winning Account Planning Group papers credit or source other planners' work and thinking.

Last year, Charles Vallance predicted that 2010 would be the year when we stopped talking about planning and started doing planning. For 2011, I'm going to do what all planners do and "build on that thought" and predict it'll be the year when we embrace Planning 2.0, Generous Planning, a brand of planning that plays to us as a collective, as a bright, sharp, curious body of fellows who like to work things out, who are generous in time and generous in attitude. Where all the different planning disciplines are valued equally and come together in the spirit of progress and understanding. Where planners invite participation from all four corners of the globe, a brand of planning that is humble enough to look beyond its own boundaries, to other industries, industries already famous for creating great content, music, film, art, fashion and create new planning ecosystems.

Planning 2.0, Generous Planning - embrace it. Form communities, create forums, discuss, innovate, experiment, build and share and build and share again, and do so not because it'll allow me the smug satisfaction of having been right but because, for all of us, it'll make for a more rewarding and fulfilling existence and, ultimately, better and more effective work. (And breathe.) Planning 2.0, Generous Planning - where our whole is so much greater, so much more potent, so much more effective than the sum of our angry, destructive parts.

And I'm not saying it's the death of ranting, far from it. Anyone who knows me will know that I'm more than partial to a little ranting from time to time. It's just that from now and forever, I'm going to save it all for Ashley Cole and the like. I suggest you do too.

Blimey. Is it me or was that a bit of a rant?

Tony Quinn is the head of planning at JWT London.

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