So around midnight in the midst of the crowd at the Ivy in San Diego--a scene well-described by comments on my posts below and elsewhere--a fellow-party goer asked me, "Where have all the gay planners gone?" Hmmm. Amsterdam? I didn't know but judging by my limited experience with gay colleagues, I suspected that they were at a much better party somewhere.
Whatever inspired the query, it raised others in my mind about other missing people and topics subjects at the 07 planning conference.
#1 Talent: Since there were 1,000 plus planner-like substances in the room, it's seems somewhat strange to wonder about a lack of talent in the business, and yet whenever I talked to fellow managers, almost all of them said they were hiring, or trying to hire. I've been in hiring mode virtually non-stop since I started managing departments about 5 years ago in NYC and Boston and I don't seem to be alone. At first I thought it was just my terrible reputation in the industry, but when I judged the Boston committee of the Jay Chiat awards in Boston with Gareth K of Modernista and Jeff F. of Digitas, they said they had the same problem. And it's not just Boston, cold and expensive as it is. Recruiters tell me they have dozens of open jobs. So where are all the planners? Is it a training problem? Or a retention problem? How can there be such big demand for jobs and so few people to fill them? Seems like a subject worth addressing.
#2 (Related to #1) Gay, African American, Hispanic and Asian Perspectives: Since I was on AAAA's planning committee, I know we set out to include ethnic marketing panels in the break-outs, but we had very few submissions. And many of them were of a very introductory level. Most of us understand that Hispanics are a growing population with different cultural traditions. I know there are talented ethnic marketers out there--I've tried (and failed) on many occasions to recruit them, but we seem to be missing a strong connection between the so-called mainstream and ethnic marketing cultures. It is a truism by now that Gay, African American and Hispanic cultures often lead mainstream American culture as a whole. Does one white American in a room full of equally white Brits provide all the necessary perspectives to understand American popular culture? This is not simply an appeal to "diversity," as a policy and civic responsibility. I think we need to explore a larger question: why understanding ethnic markets (or women for that matter) are still considered specialized enterprises, rather than an essential part of what counts as good planning in the first place.
#3 Politics (Related to #2): I saw a post on the AAAA's planning blog from Henry Gomez, an avowed conservative adman who described an uneasiness before the repeated references to Al-Gore inspired appeals to environmentalism. Now, my personal politics are way left of Henry's and maybe a lot of people in the room, but I get uneasy about political complacency as much as the next politically-active media-junkie and I think the poster had a point. There is a generally unexamined liberal/democratic/progressive orientation to most of the advertising culture in general and planning in particular, a line amplified by a utopian progressive strain in the Internet community. (Recently taken to the next level in the Planning for Good project). Again, this is all great from my perspective. But there's a couple problems with this bias: 1) it doesn't represent the values of the nation as a whole which we are supposed to understand 2) It leads to intellectual laziness. I've had strongly conservative and libertarian colleagues in my past jobs and found their perspectives challenged and sharpened my thinking and 3) Politics and political strategy is a subject worthy of study in itself. Who could argue that Karl Rove is one of the great strategists of the era?