In conversation with APG Australia, CSO of Taxi North America and Chairman of APG Canada, Mark Tomblin shares his path to planning and where he believes the industry is heading.
1. What was your first job?
My first real job was working in the primary containment of a nuclear reactor as a fitter’s mate one summer. The hours were long but the pay was amazing, and I still have a bit of thing for rubber boots…
2. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Never say anything you know to be untrue. (Easier to give than to follow, obviously, but still right on the money.)
3. If I wasn’t in advertising I would be?
4. What is your favourite word and why?
Oh, that’s a tough one – there are just so many wonderful words in our language. At the moment, I think it’s probably ‘buffoon’ – a word I’ve always liked but which has become especially resonant over the last year or so for those of us lucky enough to live in Toronto.
5. Where do you do your best thinking?
When I’m asleep. I have developed an abiding faith in the power of the unconscious mind.
6. How did you get into Planning?
Simon Clemmow suggested it to me over lunch one day. I’d toyed with it for a number of years and he wasn’t the first to broach it as an active possibility but he got me on a day when I’d really had enough of my (admittedly brief) life as a researcher. I’m very glad he did.
7. What do you love about being a Planner?
Everything. The minute I started doing it, I knew I’d found what I wanted to do. Its peculiar combination of analysis and creativity just floats my boat.
8. What in your opinion makes a good Planner?
It’s a tricky combination of a number of qualities. I think you have to be intelligent, articulate, persuasive and assertive, but also really good at listening – and above all, you need to be genuinely interested in the lives of others.
9. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Planning?
A couple of things worry me.
The first is that the continuing erosion of margins in mainstream advertising is starting to put pressure on agencies to concentrate on what they see as ‘core competencies’. Strangely, in some parts of the world, these sometimes don’t include planning. This really concerns me – I have long seen this business at its best as a well-balanced three-legged stool of account service, planning and creative and we need to keep it that way.
The second is that we now know more about how brands really grow than we ever have – a knowledge complemented by a deepening understanding of human decision-making – and yet we often seem reluctant to let go of many of legacy ideas that are clearly past their sell-by dates and which are now actively unhelpful or even, in some cases, actually damaging.
10. What’s your favourite example of unexpected thinking?
The theory of evolution.
11. What’s your best tip for generating unexpected thinking?
Read eclectically but purposefully outside the industry; expose yourself to cultural influences that are beyond your natural comfort zone; look for parallels and patterns in different intellectual worlds.
12. Which industry or group of people do you think are best at unexpected thinking?
I think design engineers are consistently full of amazing ideas. If you take the time to notice, there is so much innovative engineering out there that we just seem to take for granted, most of it by people whose names we will never know.
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