25 July 2006

AAAA Account Planning Conference

I just finished with the second day of the AAAA Account Planning Conference. I knew I would be too inspired to sleep. This post is long, so here is what I covered, and you can scroll through the bolded paragraphs to read what you'd like. pick and choose, create your own experience (har har har), if you will : small [planning] world, sparking inspiration, media, people, fear, memorable quotes, personal congratulations.

SMALL [planning] WORLD
I have seen dozens of people that I know. Many of them are VCU Adcenter alumni. Three of them were planners I worked with last summer at Euro RSCG Worldwide NY. One guy I studied psychology with in undergrad, one guy I went to high school with, my mentor, Brooke Lynn (who is also an Adcenter alumnus), people I have e-mailed or phone-interviewed with but never met, people that I knew /heard the name of through other people. People weren't kidding when they said that the planning network was small.

The theme of the conference is inspiration. How it's sparked in ourselves, where we find it, how we bring it out of other people. It was recognized that different things spark creativity in different people, and a lot of the focus of the conference has been on where different people get their inspiration. I've personally been most inspired by Richard Tait, the founder of Cranium (he had me jumping up and down in my seat); Dr. Bob Deutsch, the founder of Brain Sells; Russell Davies (obviously); and Piers Fawkes, the founder of PSFK.

One thing that was worrying was the focus on media. Here is the thing - there wasn't really one. One hour in the entire three days was dedicated to a panel on media. Less than a quarter of the 750 people (from 11 countries) at this conference demonstrated that they showed an interest in what was said prior to today (meaning, they practiced some kind of planning /media blend at their own agencies).

Someone in the panel said that agencies are still so shortsighted as to go for "TV comma radio comma print." I don't entirely agree... I think progress has been made, but don't really think that "bus wraps graffiti parking meters pizza boxes" is much better - there has to be a reason for different kinds of connections made with people, not an eagerness to fill up every single empty space that is available. On my flight here, I noticed every single seat back table to be wrapped with an ad for some television show. Not just an ad - a TERRIBLY art directed ad. I couldn't even read it to see if some of the copy was okay.

Paul Hindle of OMD said that media companies are the only guys really doing things right. I don't know if I entirely agree. What about Naked Communications? They get to the heart of people and when they interact with the world around them.

All in all, I was a little disappointed because I thought we as planners would be farther along than this, but it also gave me optimism to help get things going. With the VCU Adcenter merging the strategic planning and creative media planning tracks, their embracing and leading of change in our industry is apparent. It gives me hope for the future Adcenter graduates helping to reshape how we connect with people.

I have used the term "people" instead of "consumers" for a while, but never realized that I had. Dr. Bob Deutsch's talk today was all built on changing the lexicon of the industry by one word - consumers people. He calls himself a cognitive anthropologist, which is a pretty good way of describing planning (or one part of it). He touched on experiential structures, discovering the texture of human life, and the artistic nature of planners ("Art inspires us to look more attentively and authentically at people and how the world works," he said... which is exactly what planners aspire to do).

When we applauded Dr. Deutsch, he told me that he appreciated our applause, but that we all already knew all of this stuff, and he just put words to it. The most inspiring people to me have always been the most humble. Russell Davies, Mike Hughes, Richard Tait and Charlie Kouns are at the top of my list. all brilliant, all humble as hell.

a popular topic with all of us, as evidenced by the latest issue of SIXTY Magazine. George Scribner of Digitas told us all "Scare yourself once a week. It'll keep you alive." I have practiced this since the fall of 2005, and it is one of the most rewarding things in the world.

"thank you for not booing me off the stage in my nice blazer." - Chris Mumford (account management), The Martin Agency

"Enthusiasm gets you to good and productive places. It's attractive and compelling." - George Scribner, Digitas

"A great planner is collaborative and very intelligent... but also a fantastic playmate." - Mark Earls, Ogilvy & Mather

"Miami bums dress like Williamsburg hipsters." - Piers Fawkes, PSFK

"Figure out the motivations of the client as well as the consumer. They're your advocate, and they can make you a hero" - I don't know! I promise I would credit you if I remembered who said this. I was writing like a madwoman, sometimes forgetting to scribble names next to quotes.

"If you're at that point where what you do is the same as who you are, there is no better job. You're in the guts of what it means to be human." - Dr. Bob Deutsch, Brain Sells

[ There were many more yesterday (Monday) as well, but absent-minded me left my notebook at the hotel last night, and it got swept away. alas. ]

Alexis, Barrie and Joanna - three of my former classmates, who were part of the planning team that won the gold Chiat award for TLC Life Lessons

Lee Maschmeyer, a friend at McKinney, who was in the team that won another gold Chiat award for Audi's Art of the H3ist

David Terry, brilliant planner at BBH in New York, who was in the team that won a silver Chiat award for Axe's Spring Break

To top it all off, I think I'll be at coffee with Russell Davies in the morning. I can finally thank him for putting me at the top of the "hire these people" list.

[ I just reread this, and the writing is not so good. I apologize. I was typing furiously and too excited to word things in a better way. I might come back later (when I have more than one stupid bar of wireless) and fix things around. ]
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