.Damned cool picture. Nicked off Flickr, but I can’t remember who from.

This is a blog post that is scuttling out of the ether that has been the last few months (I’m pleased to say worky stuff has slightly died down).

I look upon planning at this stage as a little bit of an Everest (or at least, a Ben Nevis). There’s always so much more to learn, and I definitely think that the planner of the future needs to be able to process so much information (and not go mental, as I have, by subscribing to far far too many RSS feeds) and synthesise it simply. There’s still a danger that we behave a little bit like Jack Nicholson in The Departed, whose character sums up the old model of comms neatly: ‘I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me’.

The problem with this is that as advertising is pushed from all sides, from mee-ja agencies who have whole departments devoted to carving up audiences for a product or service, to PR agencies, who claim to understand the science of communication far better than their ad counterparts, to design agencies (who are, as has oft been said, the new management consultants) ad agencies scrabble around to try and pick up pieces of a new puzzle which they don’t have the instructions to.

Simply put, we can’t work harder with the information we have been given. But we can work smarter, and build upon what we already know – that people’s cognitive attention spans are limited, and, as Clay Shirky puts it here, look for “[that] place that a reader or a listener or a viewer or a user has been locked out, has been served up passive or a fixed or a canned experience, and ask ourselves, “If we carve out a little bit of the cognitive surplus and deploy it here, could we make a good thing happen?”

This, in my eyes, is the future of communication. Destroying the ‘canned’ experience, of the same thing happening every time – messing with people’s heads, making them laugh, smile, and want to play with our content.

And, quite simply, asking ‘would I want to engage with this?’ should be a mandatory on every brief (or at least, asked), rather than assuming that people will want to – and Christ, I’ve been guilty of just assuming that this is the case (or been complicit in it, at any rate).

All of this musing has led me to realise that sitting in the office isn’t going to get things done. I need to be out there, be slightly more of a bedouin, engaging with all and sundry, especially if I’m ever going to understand the range of brands I’m working on at the moment – and by that, I don’t mean a cursory trip to the factory, or subscribing to a few loyalists’ blogs, nor going along to the odd focus group. I mean actually exploring people’s passions, and whether or not they can be applied to the product/service I’m working on.

And one slightly more practical thing that I have definitely realised is that damn, I need to get me a laptop. Having a slightly knackered desktop, both at home and at work, doesn’t do me any favours. Being able to bugger off to a cafe to crank out a brief, or concoct a ‘fast strategy’ should be the order of the day, if there’s a need to (I’m not convinced that fast is always right, though).

Something which isn’t the order of the day, but still surprising, is that we’re still top in my absence. Goarn the Potters..