Several years ago there was a high-power marketing summit in San Francisco. The best and brightest ad agency “names” were all in attendance – including the creators of the great American ad campaigns of the era. The atmosphere was collegial; and why wouldn’t it be?
It was the annual meeting of marketing’s Mutual Admiration Society (Flashy Ad-Guy/Gal Chapter). The meeting was going swimmingly; that is until a plucky young speaker approached the dais and provoked the audience with one simple question: “What is strategic planning?”
An easy question? After all, these were the best advertising brains in the country. There were a few chuckles in the room; and then, nervous titters. But no one raised a hand. The question-mark lingered in the air. Finally, a brave soul attempted an answer, mumbling, something like, “It’s putting together a plan – strategically…”
The speaker recognized the answer as simple word reversal; an easy parlor game for any ad practitioner. There were a few chuckles, but the attempt fell flat. Then, after a hideously long pause (especially considering the cumulative creative brainpower present), a shiny star in the back of the room boldly offered: “It’s research.”
You could have heard an olive drop into a martini glass as the attendees waited for the provocateur at the podium to acknowledge the proffer. Silence – and then, a faint smile from the speaker; one that implied, “Now we’re getting somewhere.”