Helicopters and how you see the world..

Look, a Chinook. Via SierraHiker. Usual rules apply.

One of the great mysteries of this business is how management speak infiltrated the ad world. Mostly bollocks, of course (drilling down, to me, still sounds like some peculiar sexual deviation), but there’s one term I actually quite like, and thought I’d write about.

Namely, taking a helicopter view of something.

For those who can’t be bothered to click on the link, it relates to a ‘general outline or an overview’ of something – say a brand, a positioning, and so forth.

For those of you choking on your bourbon (or ginger nut, if you go in for that sort of thing – and I do, mmm), bear with me.

I love nuanced brand thinking. I loved, absolutely adored the Rayban ‘Never Hide’ virals (one found here), which was shown to me by Messrs Frith and Law, via the wonders of t’internet. And yes, it was phenomenally successful for Rayban. But that’s not to say it’ll be enjoyed, much less adopted, by the vast majority of the population. Nope.

What I want to contest is that for all the nuanced, brilliantly crafted thinking in the world , there’s a place for the more generalised, ‘helicopter view’ work, and just thinking in general.

I mean, look at the way I see big, global, worldwide brand ideas. I may not see them precisely in the same way as Fredrik does (though I love the last three diagrams), but instead more like this analogy.

Good big, global brand ideas are a lot like painting by numbers. The framework is there, but they don’t make sense until they are reinterpreted by whichever agency is trying to do the work in the local market (and why would they? The best work is almost always local – I can’t remember the last bit of global work which made my jaw drop).

I think the point Rob makes in the comments of Fredrik’s blog is telling..agencies shouldn’t try to reinterpret the ‘outline’ of the idea – that is, mess about with what should be set in stone.

No, they should take the (aha, it links!) helicopter view of the problem. Realise that there are certain lines of protocol (read – brand guidelines) which shouldn’t be broken. Honestly, at times, I can’t say I blame clients for getting pissy when agencies want to tweak their global brand positioning – by all means slap local interpretation on top of it, but don’t mess with a globally aligned bit of thinking which is essential to the whole worldwide campaign making sense.

And the ‘helicopter view’ is true of job descriptions and employers, it would seem. I hate the terms strategist (how can you be a strategist when, as Rory notes, your grand strategy is binned after 18 months?), comms planner (isn’t EVERYTHING comms?) , channel planner (ah, so I don’t plan in channels?) and integrated planner (if a planner wasn’t integrated, I’d worry about his/her job).

I’d steadfastly refuse to be put into a box when it comes to that sort of thing – speaking personally, I am a planner. I plan. It doesn’t matter which channel – headhunters and employers note; if I’ve done work on digital campaigns, or ATL, it doesn’t mean I’m going to be that for the rest of my career.

It may be a bit of a broad brushstroke, but Christ – the helicopter view, in my opinion, is right when it comes to my job description. I will specialise in something (and we all know I don’t like the abuse of the term creative generalism much), but I’m sure I can be trusted to plan in other disciplines – in much the same way as ‘traditional’ creatives can work on a digital campaign.

Phew. Got a bit ranty there for a second…

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