Do you have a gift for people? Do you like advertising and branding? Are you a strategic and analytical person? Is your will to investigate?, if you think there is no text without context, if you have a holistic and creative mind, if you love anthropology and curiosity hasnt killed you yet… maybe your thing is to be a planner.
It is common that when talking about their future the anthropologists dont contemplate exits that are not eminently linked to the governments, either directly in the academy or in consultants that work for the public institutions. However, there are many areas in the private sphere that require an anthropological profile in the ranks of their companies. I know that many of the readers will think with horror that this entails the “prostitution of anthropology at the service of capitalism”. And while this debate is relevant, for the moment I will assume that in one way or another we are all active agents of this global system.
One of the sectors potentially interested in people with anthropological training is, and this will not surprise anyone, is the sector of advertising. Unfortunately, the relationship between advertising and anthropology seems to be unidirectional. While they consult our work and are inspired by the ethnographic methodology to carry out their studies, we demonize their work.
This article aims to build a bridge between both worlds. Its inspired by a conversation that I had with my good friend Antonio Navarro, a great publicist and a better person. I was trying to “sell” to him the virtues that anthropology could bring to his sector. I told him about fieldwork, walking the streets, planning projects according to the needs of the consumer (and not according to the agency’s client).
“That’s a planner,” he said.
What is a planner?
In advertising there are three distinct sectors. The most stereotypical, that of the creative, the diabolized, the accounts, and the anthropological, the planners.
We already know the creative people and I suppose that each one has its own idea about them. Modern people wearing scruffy shirts and throwing wrinkled papers while complaining about how undervalued their ideas are. Those that give us slogans like “do you like to drive?”, the “Be Different” or the happy melody of the Age of Aquarius.
Accounts are the ones that monitor the campaigns from the beginning to the end, and that must respond before the client. We refer as the customer to the one who hires the campaign, not the one to which it is directed (which would be the consumer). These people do wear nice suits, and they are the voice of the customer in the campaign. Creatives create, and accounts “sell”. Of course, the tension between both “sides” is well-known in the sector.
The third figure is that of the planners. Its possibly the one with the greatest knowledge about consumers. In addition to being the consumer representative for the agency, the planner also defines the brand strategy, inspires the creative idea and acts as a mediator in the risky task of matching creatives and accounts.
What the planner principally does is to obtain insights about consumers, and develop theories that allow the definition of the strategy of the campaigns. Its a strategic researcher, “the information center in the agency“.
The consumer insights
One of the functions of the planner in the agency is to provide insights. Insight is a concept that comes from psychoanalysis and refers to an inner vision, a truth that the individual captures, internalizes or understands during therapy. It is a perceived reality internally, like the bulb that illuminates us when we come to understand something really meaningful about ourselves.
In marketinian terms, “Insights are the human truths that derive from the consumers’ way of thinking, feeling or acting, and that generate opportunities for new products, strategies and actionable communication for the companies”
Consumer insights are neither observations nor statistics. They respond to the question why do people do what they do? The answer must be formulated away from previous hypotheses, framed in a specific context and supported by rigorous fieldwork. Because what consumers say and what consumers think it is not the same thing, nor what they do. We are all relational beings influenced by our group, contradictory and polyhedral. This reality lies at the basis of the anthropological theory.
The most effective way to glimpse those insights away from the Freudian divan is ethnography. Ethnography allows us to observe the multiple meanings that users can give to the same action, to define communication patterns, uses, habits and trends. As an introduction to this subject, I recommend the work of Cristina Quiñones “Consumer insights in marketing: ethnographic techniques”.
The information obtained will be of vital importance in planning the strategy to be followed; another of the tasks of the planner, and it is here that the anthropologist merges with the strategist.
In addition to the aptitudes proper to anthropology; qualitative research, relational thinking, critical thinking and analytical skills, a good planner must know how to think in long term and embark on the world of strategic planning, with his SWOT analysis or his 5 Porter forces, among others. His vision, based on his experience in the field, will help establish the way forward. In addition, as the “information center” of the agency, it inspires creative people (as far as I know, they tolerate more “planners” than “accounts”) in the hard work of generating effective campaigns framed in the Customer requirements (which as we know, is not always right)
What qualities should a good planner have?
That is why, when you ask me what you need to know to be a planner perhaps the most honest answer is “nothing.” What it takes to be a planner is to have the ability to penetrate deep into the human being, the obsession to understand the power of the consumer, the intuition before a good idea, the thirst to understand the human being and tet capacity to find the emotions That connect with the consumer.
According to Joan Estornell’s blog, comunication, branding and marketing, the qualities of every good planner are:
⦁ Understand customer context
⦁ Passion, curiosity, diligence and resources
⦁ Ability to deconstruct, synthesis, vision and clarity.
⦁ Logic, persuasion and ability to present
⦁ A deep understanding of people’s universal truths and branding
⦁ Inspire with your strategic documents (positioning guides, creative brief, etc …)
⦁ To research the brand, the consumer and the competition to discover the insights
⦁ Knowledge of research methodologies and branding processes
⦁ Strong relationships with creatives, accounts and the client
In short, I consider that the anthropological discipline is an excellent source that advertising should take into account when looking for planners. The ethnographers are intrinsically extremely curious profiles and with highly developed critical thinking. Our mastery of ethnography is an invaluable asset for advertising agencies, at least for those who seek reliable information about their consumers, as well as the contexts in which they relate and the different ways in which they give meaning to things.