We researchers used to work a lot with advertising planners. We used to have a common purpose, looking for ideas and insights which help to explain a market or a brand. To adapt the line used by Dave Trott to describe planners and creatives, we used to drink from the same well of inspiration – although planners got to piss in it first. (Pic by lulidesigns)
But what has happened to planners that they now feel they have to sneer at qualitative research? It’s a bit like your outgoing and stylish younger sibling, who you got on so well with, now saying that you are so-o boring and predictable. You spoil the fun. You don’t have any imagination.
When account planning started, planners did not feel the need to put down research, or act as if research and ideas were somehow opposed. They used research to help to generate insights (cf JWT's 'planning begins at 40' event). Planning co-founder Stephen King said "you cannot know the facts until you've had an idea". He was a keen supporter of research, advocating 'occasionally beautiful' research and calling for more imaginative solutions and processes.
Is research any less beautiful now, or are planners getting more and more desperate? You might think the latter, to judge from two recent posts from Adliterate.
In ‘Great ideas can come from anywhere, my arse’ Richard goes on about whether or not anyone but a planner can have a decent idea. What?? It is patently obvious that anyone CAN have a good idea and to suggest otherwise is paranoid, arrogant nonsense. It’s like saying that only an athlete can touch their toes. What he probably meant is that ideas professionals are best equipped to recognise and to develop good ideas – which is a different argument, as Mark spotted.
The post, ‘new year’s revelations’, claims that there are four sources of insights and none of these is research (obviously). They are, a planner’s own instinct and experiences, spending time with ‘real people’, academics and ‘weird shit’. And what we call an insight should really be a ‘revelation’.
The revelation idea, taken from Simon Law, is quite a revealing projection. To call an idea a revelation implies a superior intelligence. It suggests that planners (or some planners at least) are getting a bit delusional. Only planners can have good ideas. Only planners can access ‘revelations’ about humankind.
So your younger sibling has run off with cousin creative, grown a beard and joined a cult that believes they have the ear of God. Let’s hope it doesn’t end in tears, or in some kind of siege of Charlotte St.
The great thing about ‘Adliterant’ is that it sets out to be provocative and is a great read. The only thing that is missing from the idea/insight/revelation debate, we humbly suggest, is a little humility.