Image from Nitin Sarkar on flickr.com

Ed Cotton, over at Influx Insights, asked the question of some people as to what their predictions are for this year.

And, I’m not going to answer it in the usual way… after all, enough people will predict the demise of advertising budgets in the face of a recessionary economy around the globe. And the uplift for “digital” will also be widely discussed – against a backdrop of the last recession being the boom of DM. The potential demise of a once-famous name in the more traditional advertising landscape has been vaunted, and could be a sad truth. And people will speculate on the next merger/acquisition in search advertising… in fact, you can read almost all of that right here at “The Big List of 2009 Marketing Predictions” – albeit an ambitious name and clearly lacking in some of the big names like Ad Age, Campaign, etc… Even The Economist has weighed in this year with a fantastically doom-laden prophesy for our industry – worthwhile reading as part of their “The World in 2009” edition.

So, here’s my thought on 2009… Which is a positive one…

What if we used the realities to change the way we work?
What if we stop being people who go to meetings and become people who deliver more ‘visible value’?

Today, far too many of us planners spend our time going to meetings – because being ‘present’ is the easiest sign of value for a client and agency. If you’re at the meetings, then people know you’re involved and they feel ‘value’ from your presence, your commentary, your input.

There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but in many cases it’s either hiding or preventing us from doing real thinking – making a difference on the results. Because, real planning also involves spending time immersing ourselves in issues – learning all about the behaviours of our audience; finding out what the real connection is with the product/brand we’re marketing; delving into the connections that people have with competitor brands; and so on. Then packaging that information into formats for our clients and our creatives… in ways that inspire.

In other words, the more time you spend in meetings, the less time you spend finding inspirational thoughts!

Ask yourself this:
“What are your success stories from last year?”
“What have you really done?”

Because, if you’ve been ‘present’ and you’ve helped to drive things along, is that really enough?
When, truly, you should be able to point at pieces of thinking, acts of discovery and strategies that you’ve developed which markedly forced change. Your input should result in ‘visible value’ (apologies for the alliterative term!).

Become the person that says “I did XXXXX” rather than “I was there.”

And, finally, the reason for this being a 2009 opportunity rather than something we should always do?
Well, this year we’ll have less people doing more work. So, carrying on as normal will be really difficult. Going to more meetings will be less exciting. And explaining to your clients that you’re going to spend more time producing rather than discussing should be all the more interesting for them.

So, use this year to change the way you work, rather than getting wrapped up in the debate about budgets shrinking… it’ll be a lot more fun.