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A Queen, a King and Two Prime Ministers

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Michael Alhadeff, senior strategist at AMV BBDO, on what UK politics can teach us about the importance of planning in waves

A Queen, a King and Two Prime Ministers

In a parallel universe this might be the latest farce about to hit the West End. But back in the world of reality, of course, this is what has just happened in the UK. In little over six weeks.

Now there are two ways of looking at this. One way is to say the UK has lost the plot (hard to argue with that on current form.) But another way of looking at is to take a slightly deeper perspective, and at the risk of turning everyone off this article and turning to a futurist.

Alvin Toffler spent much of his working life in the 20th century, but much of his writing is strangely prescient for the world we live in now (look it up – it’s annoying.) But one of his main theses were around waves as a way of understanding society.

He saw the development of society as a series of waves – the first wave the period between the nomadic and agriculture era; the second between the agriculture and industrial era; and the third between the industrial and information era. We are still living in the Third Wave and part of Toffler’s argument was that each wave, or era, overlaps which each other.

But what might be even more pertinent is the sense of time associated with each era. Toffler posited that as we moved through each era, the speed of change sped up. So, if it took millennia to past through the first wave, it only took centuries to pass through the second wave and we are literally speeding through the third wave as we speak.

It can feel as though life as been put on fast forward.

In this context, what has just happened in the UK might be merely reflective of the age we live in rather than some madcap distraction (certainly in the case of the Tory Party.) Perhaps it also helps reveal the third defining feature of the Third wave is the driving force behind it. In this case, information, and the rapid spread of it. Toffler predicted this would have a game-changer effect and would be in need of serious regulation (again another foreshadowing.)

But cutting the sociology crap, what does this mean for advertising, and planning in particular? What does it mean to be a planner in the Third Wave Toffler speaks of? Well, if you speak to any planning grandee, you’ll have recognised that advertising has moved into its own Third Wave. Namely, a lack of time and an overflow of information. It means old luxuries have seemingly been dispensed with such as proper in-depth research, proposition work and building an idea.

In this new world, what is prized above all else is speed, working on the fly and landing in culture immediately. It is the reason why so much of today’s advertising is PR driven. It also why much of the work seems transient, which was another characteristic identified by Toffler in his waves work.

Planning then has undoubtedly changed, but are we at risk of forgetting some of the fundamentals? And here, we might find an unlikely role model in the late Queen (someone who herself straddled two waves.) The Queen was able to maintain the traditions of monarchy, but also reflected modern sensibilities and updated The Crown. Similarly, we need to be at our reactive best, such as during Liz Truss’ departure or the Euro’s, but also not forget some of the foundations of brand planning which have led to great advertising, such as Sainsbury’s ‘Try Something New’ or Snickers’ ‘You are not you when you’re hungry.’

Maybe the trick then is to think in Toffler’s waves. Instead of a binary split between traditional and more modern planning, we instead need to know when and where to ride the right wave. Finding the right surf if you will?

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AMV BBDO, Mon, 14 Nov 2022 16:43:00 GMT