avin narasimhan

often rambling, but hopefully always interesting

Posts tagged creativity

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The (Ongoing) Evolution Of The Planner Career Path


  Ever since returning from Planning-ness, have been thinking a bit about how much the planning career path has changed. Not just the substance of what planning is/does, which has been written/talked about extensively by people far smarter than I, so I won’t try and reinvent the wheel on that part. But what’s interesting to me is how planners today move through their careers, and how that has changed dramatically in just a few years.This may be a bit skewed to the younger side of planners/planning, but I think it applies beyond that, as we all seek to reinvent what we do and what our role is within our agency worlds.


What a planner’s path was, circa 10 - 15 years ago.
(A completely arbitrary timeframe, and there are a lot of assumptions here, so call me on it as you see fit). Seems like planners then had few chances to connect with or collaborate with other planners beyond the 4 walls of the agency within they worked at that given time. Young planners were rarely exposed to the broader planning world, maybe once a year at the 4A’s conference, but other than that, it seems pretty limited. There was little chance to share thinking or ideas that extended beyond current client work with a broader peer group, unless you were a heavy hitter at director level or above. And I have to imagine that made most initial career moves pretty incremental, since only a small group knew how you thought or what you might have to offer.

Planner’s career paths today, and their reach beyond agency walls.
What’s amazing to me about planning today is the fact that ‘work’ isn’t always confined to the walls of your agency. Obviously, there are a few key people (and they are not the only ones) I’ve worked with to whom I credit basically all of my career growth, and without them I would be nowhere. But I’m also aware of the fact that part of my journey so far has been made possible because of some connections I’ve made and the relationships I’ve fostered among people I’ve never worked with. I’ve been able to connect with some smart people who, in a similar situation 15 years ago, I may have only heard of in name, but never gotten the chance to know or collaborate with. And it’s added another layer of richness to the job.

It’s also lead to a more accessible form of career networking.
I’ll admit, I’m not the strongest face-to-face networker in the world. Walking up to random people at conferences and striking up conversations has always been weird and uncomfortable for me, and I’ve always been envious of those who seem to have no problems with it. But today, it seems like the need to be at things like the 4A’s “festival” in order to make those same connections is less necessary (not that it doesn’t have it’s role, personally don’t see it as an either/or). Being able to make a series of digital introductions has helped me make connections I may have never otherwise had (in fact many strong professional connections for me are people I’ve only met a couple times or never at all, as I’ve written about before). Think this is a major shift, because it’s allowed people like me who may be a bit more introverted and less comfortable with big networking events to still seek out connections on a more one-to-one basis. And some of those connections have lead me to amazing opportunities (like, for example, the chance to speak at Planning-ness this year). I’m not quite sure what I would’ve done without this. In fact, I’m not sure how I would’ve grown as a planner without some of the tech we take for granted to connect me with such an incredibly diverse and talented pool of people.


From personal to collective- the effect on planning itself.
Beyond just changing the career path, feels like something else happened. I clearly remember times a few years ago when I was given the figurative pat on the head and a knowing smirk by agency/client folks alike for suggesting such ludicrous things as a company having a blog or, god forbid, tweeting about stuff. I’m sure many of you have experienced the same, and it goes without saying it’s not a great feeling. My point in mentioning that is I really believe planners have kept each moving forward, helped keep each other motivated in the face of adversity, and we’ve kept each other progressive in part by our constant connection to one another. I imagine most of our departments are quite small, and we’re all so busy, but the outlet we have to the larger planner crowd I think keeps many of us going (I know it’s a huge part of my day, and how I decompress amidst the madness) and serves as a key source of inspiration. Not to mention that we now have access to a free gold mine of insights and information, from incredibly smart people all around the world.

And beyond planning, it feels like a big benefit to agencies.
All of this makes it clear to me that planners can help drive a more collaborative spirit through our respective agencies given our own benefit from working together. For all the talk of openness and collaboration, I think it’s safe to say many of us likely still work in places that see other agencies as “enemies” and which shy away from sharing intel openly and freely. While obviously we don’t advocate handing over every company secret, what we can help drive through is a more open dialogue in the agency world, and push our peers to let go of the mindset that collaboration with ‘competitors’ is not OK. And in fact, it can lead to some of the best partnerships you’ve never thought of. We’re already starting to see it come to life (at Boulder Digital Works, for example) and I’m sure we could use more of it.

So what does it all mean?
Until last night, I wasn’t quite sure where I was going with this, if it’s even all that interesting, or how to end this little ramble. But a great post by Thas around what our generation’s story is or will be (similar to how generations in this business before had things like Art + Copy), got me thinking how we progress through our careers today can ultimately lead us to and help shape that next story. It’s almost better that we don’t know exactly what it is, and it’s an opportunity to figure it out together, along with everyone else out there. A more collaborative career path, enabled by technology. More than ever, we can (and we are) helping each other chart the course for the future. And maybe what’s most exciting to me is that it’s not just happening within the walls of only one agency, but across our broader community. We all have a role to play (if you want one). I’m not the first one to say this is an exciting time to be in this business, and I’m sure I won’t be the last.

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#greatpresentationsof2010: The Awareness Fallacy

 
Caught this interesting pres from Mark Lester earlier today (via Propagation Planning by Griffin Farley). Smart and concise, it directly addresses the issue many of us have with the over reliance (both on client side as well as agency side) on awareness as a key measure of success. I’ve always felt like this was a tremendously limited metric (and part of a larger, flawed process ie the ‘purchase funnel’), even more so today, but I’d argue even in the old days when advertising fell into neat buckets and most people found out about new brands or products in more or less the same way. I’ve never really bought into the idea that human beings are such simple machines who follow a nice, linear path from awareness to purchase. It’s a bit more complicated (and more interesting) than that, and this deck does a nice job of exploring that complexity quickly. Particularly like the last section around the way many marketers and marketing research processes confuse the relationship between attitudes and behavior, summed up nicely with this chart:

Full pres is definitely worth a read to help get your brain working again after the holiday weekend.

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#greatpresentationsof2010: Starbucks On Social Strategy

This deck (and video of the keynote, included below) have been making the rounds over the past few days, but thought it was worth sharing here as well (and a semi-decent way to break a new business induced post drought, I suppose). Concise and to the point, but probably the most important idea to me comes on slide 10:

Social fits within a larger digital, and integrated strategy

Simple and intuitive as that seems, to me that is a point that is so often missed and/or forgotten. I think far too often it seems people are still looking for some kind of ‘social media silver bullet’, planned for (or rather, not really planned for) in a silo outside of larger brand strategy. Great to see a brand like Starbucks giving a simple reminder that without a more holistic approach, in which all aspects of the business are aligned around a common point of view and purpose in the world, success isn’t likely to follow. Worth 20 or so minutes of your time to watch the actual presentation as well.

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Comedic Genius: Mel Gibson vs Old Spice Man

This has to be one of the best mashups I’ve seen in a long time. From the talented people at smallpoppy, very well done and the timing is brilliant.

Good thing is they had plenty of material to choose from, not just Gibson’s rants but also from the 180+ videos coming out of the brilliant Old Spice responses idea. Parodies often tear down a brand but in this case Old Spice can be happy they’re the hero while Gibson takes the heat (as he should). Enjoy.

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Have You Backed The Bucket Brigade Yet?

Last week, I finally got around to backing Bud Caddell’s excellent idea for a new book, The Bucket Brigade. Seems like everyone has weighed in at some point or another with their thoughts on why they are backing it and why the idea makes all the sense in the world, so I won’t spend time repeating what others far smarter than I have said in far smarter ways.

But what I did want to take the time and mention is why I decided to up my pledge from sponsor to editorial board level. I think Tim said it best in his recent post, the reason this project seems to have sparked so much interest is that it is tapping into our collective desire to do something, rather than just talk about it. And let’s face it, there’s always a reason to put off doing something like this. Too busy with our day jobs, not enough time in the day, not sure where to get started, and on and on. There will always be one. But thanks to Bud, the chance to get together with a bunch of insanely brilliant people and really do something interesting in the world is a reality, not just a theory. And I for one am incredibly excited at the possibilities.

Congrats to Bud on all of the support he’s received, and thanks to everyone who has also decided to get involved. Can’t wait to see and be a part of what happens. And if you haven’t joined the crew yet, you’ve still got a few days left to become a backer.

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Genius: Old Spice Even Responds To Removed Comments

We’ve all been hearing and talking about the brilliance of Old Spice’s latest effort today, so I’ll try not to add to much to the echo chamber right now. But I just caught this vid that I think says a lot— taking the time to make a personal response even to a comment that was removed? Priceless.

Job very well done to all involved, though clearly you already knew that. Amazing.

via youtube.com

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#greatpresentationsof2010: Rethinking The Creative Brief

Great presentation from Jasmin Cheng over at Twist Image. Clearly lays out some of the major issues around creative briefs many of us are dealing with today and some ideas around how to fix them. Particularly agree with point 6— I’ve always found the end result is better when briefs are created collaboratively with input from multiple sources. Sometimes far easier said than done (ok almost all of the time), but doesn’t mean we should stop striving for the best environment possible. 

Well worth a read, full of quotes and ideas from smart people across the industry.

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Google Celebrates Father’s Day Without Being Cheesy

The latest in the generally great Search Stories series from Google. And another great example of the enduring power of film in creating and sharing stories. While I’m not a father and perhaps can’t relate exactly to the tension and emotion being conveyed, think it’d be hard not to feel something from this no matter who you are.

Well done, yet again.

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How Not To Suck At Banner Ads— Uniqlo Breaks It Down

Just the latest in a string of awesomeness from Uniqlo. It’s not often that banner ads do something other than clutter up and derail user experience on your site. While you could argue even this example is still a bit noisy, can’t argue the fact that it appears to have worked, and clearly added to rather than taking away from site experience.

Nice example of rethinking an experience that many people have written off. And showing that an idea doesn’t always have to be overproduced or epically done to be successful.

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Zipcar And Startup Culture

I’ve always had a lot of love for Zipcar, both as a very satisfied customer, and as an admirer of the way they’ve built their business from the ground up. Got this email from them today and not surprisingly it’s another brilliant idea.
 

Recognizing their place in local entreprenuerial circles, they’re sponsoring MassChallenge, a great competition among startups to give budding entrepreneurs a chance to do what Zipcar did a few years ago. Great example of a brand, even during major growth and success, understanding it’s enduring role in culture, and not just some marketer-defined ‘position’ in a category. There’s some things that you really can’t teach, and a culture like that of Zipcar’s seems to be one of them. And I think a smart play like this shows that even as they continue to scale up, they won’t soon forget how they got there, and the need to give the next gen their shot. Hope to see this competition take off, great idea, great brand, and a great opportunity for the startup community here in Mass.

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Filed under branding brands creativity digitalculture entrepreneurialspirit innovation startupculture whatsnext zipcar