Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Coffee with Leo Burnett Chicago Planner, Tamer Kattan

DC: Tamer you had a stint in Dubai before you moved to LB Chicago…thus a compare and contrast question is due. I asked this to Brenda earlier, how would you describe the current level of planning in the UAE region?

TK: I think the level of strategic planning in any regions advertising industry is directly connected to the number of perspectives and opinions that can be witnessed, shared and discussed by planners (drum
roll) outside of the office. The ability to leave the office, and to look at a question differently not necessarily to find the answer is important.
Example: Oh, you've been the planner on Kelloggs for a year and don't know how to talk about the cereal in a new way? How about speaking to a blind person (better yet - a focus group of blind people) and hearing how they describe the smell, taste, texture, etc etc etc of corn flakes.
Can I leave a predominantly Lebanese agency, Lebanese opinion, Lebanese upbringing, Lebanese perspective at a time when it means so much more to be Lebanese - can I go outside to a restaurant, a cafe, a clothing store and get a British, Philipino, American, Female, Gay, blind, deaf, young, old, married, Japanese, Indian perspective on a problem?
In Dubai the answer is yes, in the rest of the UAE...I don't know.

DC: So where is it headed?

TK: Dubai should be one of the best planning cities in the world. Period.
More impressive than any architectural wonder is the ability of so many different cultures and ways of life to co-exist...happily. If Arab planners stay "Arab", they will not improve. It was Socrates who said:
"I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world".
If you believe in this statement than you are no longer a Lebanese planner, no longer a planner from Dubai or the UAE, or Chicago, NYC or London.
Regions should not be attached to critical thought (unless you're advertising a regional product of course). I think the greatest thing a planner can do to constantly improve is to exercise non-regional thinking.

DC: Do you feel planners are valued as much as they are in the west?

TK: I think that is 100% up to the individual planner. And if we must focus on a region - I think in many ways you are ahead of the West. If we went back thousands of years, planners, thinkers, philosophers would be alive and well in Rome, Persia, India, Egypt, Greece and the rest of the Middle East...Western society didn't even exist.

DC:What do you believe the planner of the future is?

TK: Be still my heart - we may migrate Client side. The planning process has proven to be critical before we speak to consumers, I believe clients will start to see that the value of the process is just as valuable in directing, creating new products, new offerings and new services.
listening deeply to consumers will affect product/services development much more.

DC: When looking to recruit a young lippy planner, what elements do you search for?

TK: His ability to disagree with me. Have balls. I want someone who offers a different opinion, passion and fun.

DC: First thing you might ask someone in an interview situation?

TK: Its gotten me into trouble, but I ask who they voted for in the elections and why? I ask controversial questions and when I find a topic that we disgree on I ask them to justify their decision...No right or wrong answer, just how well can you support your point?

DC: Name me 3 of your favourite campaigns that have 'planner' written all over 'em.

TK: Thats like saying name me 3 of your favorite illusions that have magician written all over 'em! If I can see the planning, then it wasn't good to me :-). I like the strategy to be invisible.
- The Guardian (UK Newspaper) - Skinhead running at someone, you assume he's a criminal ends up saving the persons life - we give you all the perspectives
- Amul (India) if you don't know them:
- Anna's massage - (Chicago) A guy walks around with a sandwich board attached to his body. He does this crazy, vey fluid, liquid looking dance...looks like he's riding a very loose skateboard and the sandwiche board reads: "Wanna feel this good? - 15th floor Anna's massage and herbal therapy"

DC: A privilege Tamer, good luck in Chicago!


Anonymous Spoon said...

Hi Tamer,by migrate to the client side do you feel their will no longer have a role at the agency?

11:40 AM  
Anonymous GB said...

Tamer good to see you again!Great to hear such a fresh perspective on the region for a change...down with the critics!

12:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in everyone seriously trying to sweep in and make a claim that the regions planners are on par with the west?
Optimism is great but so is realism.

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Anyonymous 3 said...

this is anonymous 2 isn't it? How can you even begin to compare an embryonic market with an established one??
What you see from the west is their best, all you see is the Cannes screanings, spots of the whatevers...I can assure that these infallible markets called the 'Wests' are full of as much garbage if not more as 'The region'...

3:22 PM  
Blogger X said...

Touche touche touche, Anonymous 3 I'd like to buy you a beer for that last comment.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TamerKat said: Spoon: Great name by the way :-) Nah, I think planning will definately still be alive in agencies, but I don't know if it will be the responsibility of a single department anymore. Maybe the outcome of a collaboration the planner being a moderator of sorts...but in the end I feel pretty comfortable saying I don't know :-)

7:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tamerkat said: America existed before Americans put a red, white and blue flag in the ground. Indians were there. Democracy existed before America claimed it to be their cause. Greeks thought of it. And critical thinking was alive and well, before the West took the little animal home, put a collar on it and named it "Planning". Don't get caught up on a word. The West doesn't think better...they SELL their thinking better. If the West is ahead in anything it is in the ability to push the client back, to make the client comfortable with being uncomfortable, to SELL and justify have a tougher job to sell RISK in the region. RISK is in Western brands DNA, the old world moves at a different and more cautious pace. They are not better thinkers, just better salesman - Keep pushing.

7:22 PM  
Blogger X said...

Burnett Dubai/Burnett chicago?Compare and contrast?

10:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last comment, a valid point. There's no comparison. A lollypop goes to which of the above is a real agency producing outstanding work and which is a farm devoid of creativity, focused only on pandering to the clients whim not to mention emptying out by the bucketful?

7:56 AM  
Blogger AD MAD said...

Ahhhhh Mr T almost shared a little cave with you out in the desert.....????

See you're still trying to entice young planners into a "teabagging" session - that will certainly get them disagreeing with you after one squint at those Egyptian love nuts...

Anyway before I dunk this cafe into into toilet speak I'd like to say you're wrong about clients creating planning roles or rather your thought is ill conceived.

Research, product development, insights, sound bites, customer centric, mystery shopping, focus groups, debate, brainstorming, discussion, conjecture, challenging, speaking your mind and generally utilizing all the tools a planner needs above and beyond my initial take outs....then the client already has it all it just needs to be crafted...but from the outside!

Why?.... You can be in a mutli client agency and gain a unique perspective on consumers at large but most importantly "BRAND TIME", how much time does a consumer get with various brands, flirting with it, sleeping with it, listening to it, arguing with it, dumping it, joking with it, buggering it senseless, or just talking to it.....

Now compare this time spent to all the other relationships that consumer's are trying to wrestle with, advise the client how they get the most rewarding time out of their relationship with a consumer at all levels....but to do that you need to understand all of those relationships/brands a consumer is in bed with.

My little theory - which is not reallt new from a research technique but more in it's application and handler - is you need the very best consumers to tell you about all their relationships, not everyone to give you an opinion on one. The context and time a brand has with a consumer can then only be understood and crafted by a planner who is exposed constantly to different brands' most valuable (not always profitable) consumers.

Chicago hey??? I once remember you lambasting a sister MD of Leo B for standing to attention every time Chicago said hello....funny how things work out....

Good Luck to a Good Guy

12:01 PM  

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