Thursday, 25 August 2011

We are what we are

One sign, I think, when a brand or an industry is in danger of losing its way is when it starts trying to be something it's not. Instead of holding fast to its original purpose, it grabs onto a rising star and tries to fly heavenwards.

Although there may be debates about how accurately the world of 1960s Madison Avenue is portrayed in MadMen, I expect no-one in those agencies at the time had any doubt about what their job or the role of the company that they worked for was. Ditto in London in the 1980s. We worked for an advertising agency and we were proud to do so.

These days, of course, advertising is a dirty word and agencies try to position themselves as anything other, trying desperately not to use the "a" word, rather like the game of Taboo. For the last twenty years or so, my role, the Account Planner, has adopted various personas removed from the world of advertising to try and justify its existence.

There was a Management Consultant phase where we went through an "Agency MBA" and shelled out our hard-earned cash on forbidding textbooks on Corporate Strategy and Organisational Management, when all we really wanted to do was make ads.

And the current mode seems to be Account Planner as programmer geek, where I expect a touch of a Californian accent, a name like a 19th century farmer (Seth, Josh, Abe) and a smattering of facial hair takes you a long way. There don't seem to be any training courses anymore to learn to be an Account Planner (apart from the odd Bootcamp) - instead, you "share stuff" at unconferences, barcamps and Open Sources.

I've nothing against learning from other industries - but in the end, I'm here to help make ads that work.

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