Back in 2003 I was at an APG lecture that was pretty compelling. It was basically a call to arms for a role for good planning in the modern age.
Except that modern age looks a bit antiquated. Talk was of websites and blogs as the future. Facebook was mostly unheard off, no one had smartphones (although people were talking about the death of TV and the end of paid for ads, some things never change I guess).
The premise was that if you go back to the time of Henry Ford and his 'you can have any colour as long as it's black' it was easy for the advertiser. We had, if anything under-supply. One commercial TV channel in the UK, lack of choice on the supermarket shelf, bored people looking for novelty. Planning media and advertising was easy - reach people on the obvious channels, tell them a product benefit, mix in a little emotion. You're done.
Fast forward to 2003 and were already making too much stuff. Multiples of the same thing on supermarket shelves, hundreds of TV channels. Roughly 3,000 ad messages fired at the average person per day.
A call for smartness to become the brand that got noticed and wanted in the avalanche of advertising.
Now let's go to the present day. Not just even more hundreds of TV channels, video consumption on every device you can think of, gaming overtaking film and TV as entertainment in some quarters, dark social leading to a whole generation finally able to block out brands and prying adults very soon. Precision advertising with programmatic, re-targeting and stuff that is beginning to wear thing with the recent Google scandal, the estimate that programmatic reaches perhaps 1/3 of the supposed paid inventory and the dumbness of re-targeting that sees you being served as ad for the thing you bought an hour ago.
Then there is ability to buy whatever you want wherever you want, where spontaneity might matter more than creating a slow burn of long term desire, where people can decide on what to buy based on each other rather than an authority, where we're making so much stuff, real and virtual that realness of paper and the need for mindfulness mean colouring books for grown ups are big business.
And yet the response from most advertising and brand advice suppliers is to try and re-badge the past without learning from. The same hollow arguments on what a brand model might look like these days, when business has changed so much, perhaps the golden rule of building a strong brand and then adding scale might actually be going into reverse. Where advertorials are re hashed as Native and somehow it's cool to be ashamed that you have something great to sell and pretend not to be advertising at all, where agencies fight over roles by re-branding advertising as content, where the need to fuse media planning and creative planning (not as different as folks might think is lost as agencies compete over 'comms planning' media agencies invent 'ideation teams' and creative agencies invent stuff like Media Arts so they can force the media agencies to go back to putting an 'x' on a schedule.
You might say the future looks bleak. But I say that's wrong.
In a market where where there's too much stuff, brands, agencies, channels, theories, process and everything else. Where no one knows what they're doing. With some ignoring to the learnings of the past, from pioneers like Stephen King, Gossage, and yes Rosser Reeves, or even modern folks like John Steele. While others fail to embrace change, new challenges and new opportunities thrown up by culture.
This market has never been more ready for folks who can marry invention with best practice. Blend logic and emotion. Borrow from the new and old. Planners I mean.
There's so much adwank (and digiwank to be even more precise) flying around, sheer common sense can take you very far.
But there's also so much trying to cling to the past that re-inventing the familiar can be perhaps more propelling.
It's human nature to be contradictory. We cling to the familiar while going ga ga for novelty. The sweet spot perhaps has always been innovation done in a way that looks safe.
Or safe in a way that looks interesting.
Either way, it was a time for planners in 2003, perhaps that time is even more ripe now.
I think it's exciting to be around in advertising these days.
Advertising, let's be proud of that word. That would be a nice start.