In one Dutch city they are experimenting with the traffic congestion problem in a rather nontraditional way. They've removed more than 80% of all traffic lights and more than half of the road signs in Drachten, Holland. They call it Naked Streets. From an article in Good magazine:
Pulling up to an intersection where the traffic lights aren’t working is confusing. Whose turn is it to go? Who has the right-of-way? Inevitably, you have to negotiate the intersection by interacting—you look around for pedestrians, then, making eye contact with other drivers, slowly pull across the intersection.
After sitting through two and a half days of presentations in San Diego I was left with the sense that some fundamental assumptions within account planning - and in a bigger sense, advertising itself - are being removed like so many Dutch street signs, leaving us to lead more by our instinct. I think it is a good thing, to become more aware of the wayfinding crutches we use, and to step into the new marketing environment naked and hyper aware.
A few of the assumptions I'm talking about:
Keeping it stupid simple v. being mister clever smartypants
Mark Earls' breakout session In Praise of Stupid argued for more Barnum, less brain surgery. He cautioned agency planners on becoming too clever for our own good. And he talked about planners playing the role of a creative producer rather than an artist.
Speed to market v. the single 'right' idea
A lot of talk around the importance - especially with web 2.0 and social media and the like - of being quick to market in myriad ways as opposed to researching the hell out of one idea then executing it across all mediums. The greater point being that messaging is far inferior to brand behavior in building believers.
Creative as a department v. universal creativity
Ken Robinson eloquently stated the case that everyone is endowed with a creative intelligence. It reminded me how sometimes you hear an agency say 'we believe creative ideas can come from anywhere' but this basically takes sit a step further to say 'creativity must come from everywhere'. Because in many ways creativity is the only competitive advantage. The planner then helps to create the climate for creativity to flourish.
Message v. behavior
Moving from the business of messages to one of inciting belief in a brand through behavior. There was lot of discussion around Belief Brands with Eric Ryan's presentation of his company Method being the most prominent example. In a couple of the most amusing and memorable pirate / navy moments he compared his marketing budget to the amount P&G spends on their own toilet paper and said his company has an advantage over P&G, Unilever and S.C. Johnson because he's alive. (You can watch the webcast of his presentation but you can't actually see the slides in the video.) And Mark Earls talked about how thinking follows behavior and behavior follows belief.
Researching insight v. test marketing instinct
Perhaps most shocking (not sure if that's too strong a word but I'll stick with it) was how diminished the role of research, especially qualitative, was in the conversations. Great planners that have broken free of agencies (Eric Ryan, the guys at Zeus Jones, Mark Earls, Adam Morgan, etc.) spoke very little about research. When it came up it seemed to be playing such a back seat role to informed action. In a climate that requires innovation it's no longer sufficient to talk to consumers to find answers. The role of research is becoming more about knowing your consumers but not letting them lead you; then putting something in market in different ways in measured amounts, and seeing how it performs.
Consistency and control v. other stuff
And Gareth Kay and Mark Lewis argued there are Seven Deadly Sins of marketing today. I like how they talked about seven sins of marketing not just planning. The themes they identified pretty much cover the stuff above and then some.