Strategy and Sausages:
A British Strategic Planner in Germany
Monday, 29 June 2020
Your business is none of my politics
When I was a bright young thing in my 20s, I joined the ad agency that had put Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives into power. I never worked on the Conservative party account personally. I wouldn't have refused (as I wouldn't have refused working on Silk Cut at that point) although I would have found it quite daunting. I don't know if everyone who worked on the account had to be staunch Tory supporters, or whether a few wild cards were brought in to challenge and play devil's advocate.
It may seem odd to younger readers, but I didn't necessarily know the politics of my colleagues. I knew what their favourite tipples were, which films they'd seen, their favourite bands and possibly who they'd slept with last Friday (if the office gossip machine was working). But politics and religion weren't discussed. Not with workmates and certainly not with clients. Salary was another thing. You didn't go blabbing about it - maybe that was a deliberate ploy from management in general to avoid transparency and fairness. Maybe it was what we thought at the time - decency and respect, and an avoidance of vulgarity. Or, I expect, a bit of both.
The world is a different place today. I've been spending more time on LinkedIn and a couple of Facebook groups for brand and communication strategists.
To be honest, these online places sometimes feel like snake pits.
Should "we" be buying so-and-so marketing guru's book, given his "uneducated" or "offensive" tweets on a completely different theme?
Pushing of pdfs, books, "voices" to follow and other assorted resources to "educate ourselves" so that "we" finally "get it."
People being sworn at, generally harangued and told they have "issues they need to work on" if they dare to say that (maybe) strategy isn't political.
Everything from hate to food has become politicised.
You could be forgiven for thinking you'd stumbled into the desperate-to-impress anarcho-extremist- nihilist group in Fresher's week. I sometimes wonder why on earth these people are working in advertising agencies and for-profit organisations - surely it's all just a trifle hypocritical?
My politics have evolved in the last thirty years. I have achieved some reasonably dizzy heights in my career as well as fallen down in the gutter a couple of times. I've learned from that. But I still don't think I need to talk about who or what I vote for with clients, let alone complete strangers on the internet.
It's not about bravery, or speaking up. Nor do I want to avoid being uncomfortable. A certain amount of discomfort helps growth, I know that.
But it is about understanding people - whether clients, customers, people you're communicating about your brand with. You don't know what they've been through, what their views are, what their experiences are, what makes them tick. And the best place to start for understanding is common ground - something you can agree on as fellow human beings.
From there on you can agree to disagree - a phrase I hear only too seldom these days.
When I was little, I wanted to be a spy. I got off to a good start, studying Psychology at Trinity College, Cambridge but somehow got side-tracked into the wonderful world of advertising and marketing.
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