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ot Do ctors but
P sychoana lysts
It is a melancholy truth that the more expert I have become, the less
my expertise is valued. I recognise that this may be because my
dusty tales of Levi’s watchpockets, chords and yin yangs lose a
little of their lustre with every passing year. And when I discuss
agile social media tweets it comes out like Esperanto. But it may
also be because Clients no longer come to me for expertise. Or at
least not the expertise I imagined I had to offer.
Not Doctors but Psychoanalysts
The Slough of Despond How Would A Psychoanalyst
I had always thought that we Planners were akin to Engage with a Marketeer?
strategic doctors. We assessed the patient’s symptoms, Let us nonetheless consider some of the basic principles
we prescribed treatment, we arrived at prognoses. I that would derive from a psychoanalytic approach to
had imagined that sitting in four reviews a day, year Client engagement....
after year, gave us a special authority on the anatomy
i) We must behave as participant observers, not
of communication. I’m sure there was a time when
my Clients nodded gratefully as we offered sage
Analysis only works if we embark on it together as
counsel. The blinding insight, the lyrical proposition,
willing equals. We must find solutions together.
the damascene conversion...(There was, wasn’t
there?) But modern Clients are more strategically ii) Don’t set out to cure symptoms. We are on a quest
and creatively confident than ever before. They have for meaning.
their own strategy departments, they’re closer to their The answers to most problems reside in the minds
own data, they work across more channels than most of the Client. We are enabling self knowledge; we
of us, they go on creative role reversal courses... I’m are helping them to create their own narratives.
really not sure they come to us primarily to listen to iii) Don’t impose structure and form. Embrace free
our opinion. And I have to say sometimes nowadays association.
it’s difficult getting a word in edgeways. It’s true, Often we are too quick to order our Client
I have considered an alternative career as a bus engagement. Fantasies and dreams can reveal
conductor. And when the 25 year old Millward Brown the unconscious conflicts that reside behind
consultant’s opinion carries more weight, I find myself symptoms. Understanding them provides the
yearning for a passing Routemaster. insight that resolves problems.
iv) Active Listening.
Back from the Brink Remember, everything has meaning.
But advertising people are inherently positive. And so I Be attentive to body language, repetition
reconsider. Surely our Clients come to us for something in words and phrases.
other than lattes and sympathy. In all our surveys they v) Interpret and Reflect.
seem rather to value Planners and they’re generally Make observations on patterns and repetitions.
happy to pay for us. So what do they see in us? Why do you think you think that? The more
I consider these rudimentary principles of
Strategic Psychoanalysts psychoanalysis, the more
I find them instructive of modern Client
I am increasingly of the view that Clients don’t come to
engagements in our world.
us for medicine; they come to us for therapy. That our
value resides not as strategic doctors but as strategic
psychoanalysts. Often a successful modern Client Multiple Choice
engagement is not unlike a session of analysis. Clients I used to believe there was only one correct answer to
begin with problems. They verbalise their thoughts, every problem. Now I believe there are many correct
they make free associations, they express their fantasies answers. The challenge is to establish the correct answer
and dreams. We listen, we interpret, we consider the that best suits the Client’s character and personality. I
unconscious conflicts that are causing their problems. recently attended a conference at which the venerable
We help them reach solutions through a process of self Creative Director Patrick Collister quoted Anais Nin:
realisation. Freud, in addressing the unconscious, talked ‘We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are’.
about the need to ‘unearth buried cities’. This doesn’t I’m sure this maxim applies as much to strategy as it
sound too alien to our world. does to creative.
I should at this point issue a health warning. I’m a
Planner from Romford. I have no particular knowledge
of psychoanalysis myself. For me it’s an illuminating
analogy rather than a Planning method. Besides, if we
were too literal about this, we’d never look a Client in the Jim Carroll is UK
eye and I suspect that’s a sure fire way to lose business... Chairman of BBH.