Responsibility & Job Titles..
In the hubbub of a summery Friday, two seemingly unconnected things happened. One was this post from Ben, which sparked a lot of anonymous anti-planner chat in the comments. Which is fine. I despair at some of the planning, and some of the briefs i’ve seen(not mine, obviously – they’re always excellent…*cough*) in the time i’ve been a planner. Some of the worst are those which lift too directly from the client brief, and don’t have any hint of a lateral thought, or any kind of springboard. But I digress.
The second was something which happened at my work. I don’t tend to write about work, partly because it’s pretty standard stuff if you’ve worked in an ad agency before – making ads/not enough Don Draper esque antics – and partly because detailing the inner workings of an agency often makes said agency look a bit farcical (unless you’re W&K, whose blog is excellent). Anyway. We have a brief in the agency which involves writing an awful lot of football orientated headlines. The sort of brief which is a bit like the Economist, in that anyone with a vague knowledge of the topic could write lines for.
And that’s what we did. We opened it up, whilst assigning a team to work on it. And you know what? It all went swimmingly. The creative team in question didn’t mind us opening it up to other people, and we had a cracking collection of lines to go back with. What was telling was that they were prepared to admit they didn’t know it all about the subject, and didn’t get defensive when yours truly, a dastardly planner critiqued stuff. It helps that my English degree background (and slightly obsessive football fan nature) means I can have a reasonable stab at what’d work and what wouldn’t in this case. I’m not saying it’d work all the time, but in this case, it was the best solution when we didn’t have a creative director to hand, and an impending deadline.
And yet, I’m sure a lot of folks reading this have worked in places where people get needlessly defensive if their job feels like it’s being done by other people, or ‘assisted’. The sort of jobsworthiness that leads to planners getting pissed off if account handlers come up with a better proposition than them, or creatives being able to present ideas better than the account team.
There are many things I can’t do. I can’t really code HTML at all, create CSS, draw, present without going umm or swearing to break the tension, use photoshop (but i’d like to learn) or write blog posts without using too many ellipses. But there’s a host of stuff I’d like to think i’m not bad at – and for this to be shelved because of my job title is frankly, fucking ludicrous.
I mean, why would you want to adhere so religiously to your job title? I may not be the world’s best presenter, but for me to put this down to me being a slightly bumbling planner and not attempt to learn how to do it better is a nonsense. To me, it just makes you close your mind, and, in my opinion, ultimately stops you from getting better at your job.
Outside influences are hugely, hugely important to how you think about things. They shouldn’t take over – obviously, a well trained copywriter is a much, much better judge of creative work than yours truly – but when your other talents are allowed to come to light now and then, it allows you another perspective, and that surely helps. Think about your favourite musicians, and how they are influenced by other artists/groups. They don’t say they haven’t had influences, do they?
I think those guys who want to close their minds should watch this video from Google, specifically the piece about Hippos in organisations and how they damage product development and innovation. (NB: A hippo is the highest paid person’s opinion, able to kill ideas quickly):
Some of the best people I know are multi-talented ad folk, who’ve been creatives, planners and account handlers when required. Strategy isn’t a department. (Yes, I know that’s hugely glib, but it’s very true).
Whingers who just want to have their own corner in their agency somewhere, who will take their ball in and not let anyone play with it aren’t long for this business. And that can’t happen too quickly.