A Prologue

The impulse that takes us to want to know what will happen comes from the human need of controlling and owning the future. This applies especially to those humans that live in industrialized societies governed by markets. Is for this reason that this act of wanting to know is severely and recurrently shown in the business field.

We want to be first to that place towards which society is believed to be heading. Because if we are the first ones we would not only be able to say “we told you” but also that we overcame uncertainty and the stress and anxiety it produces, and we would take over the owner-of-certainty position, and therefore security, that intangible good so craved nowadays.

Please note that to want to know does not imply knowledge or understanding. In that sense,

we all can know a match result but we won’t understand why that result was given, which factors were combined in that place and that moment so that in the end one team loses and other wins. Thus, we are announcing results without any explanations.

Now, three months since the appearance of the pandemic in Spain and with the commercial activity 

partially reset, we are seeing numerous projections of the coming up  future, mostly addressed to want to know the post-covid society.

We are witnessing a sort of Spatial Race that instead of arriving on Mars aims to get ASAP to the post-covid society. Such is the effort to get there that this race does not spare on thinking what it’s being said to try to understand the moment as a whole.

This new Spatial Race makes us lose focus on what is and what is not a driver of change. It makes us concentrate on the now, with no perspective from the past, taking us to partial and biased realities.

Being this a race we are only looking forward without taking the necessary time to consciously reflect on the present and also to look back into the past. Nor to look into different sources or to apply research methodologies beyond the famous desk-research. We are not against desk-research, this would be better if we tried to balance so many consultancy sources with more sources with names and surnames. If we did this we would achieve a wider speech while  avoiding at the same time the duplicity of information and the confusion of corporate interests with real human and social needs.

Races provoke that in analyzing a fact we isolate it within the present moment, the same in which we are running towards our goal. This  magnifies the present moment. So much so that now when everything seems to be generated by the pandemic we have forgotten that the major social transformation driver is climate change and its consequences for life.

Advertising, marketing and consultancies generally lack the humbleness of the social scientific, who looks into social changes from skepticism and caution, not daring to confirm any fact without having previously studied it. Please watch the sociologist Richard Senett, in this video we recommend, talking about the challenges our cities are facing when it comes to redesigning crowded spaces. He literally recognizes not having answers.

At ImprovisedPlanning we miss more questions than answers. That the world is changing is a fact but what will be the changing factors is not that clear. Before Covid-19, Nissan had already ‘adjusted’ its workforce. Similarly did Airbus. Also in the touristic sector some DMO’s were anticipating strategies to better manage masive tourism and reconnect with local citizens. To give an example of our sector, we need to remember the wave of advertising agencies mergings, – which were accompanied by massive dismissions of workers –, workforce adjustments after losing main clients or creative agencies becoming consultancies and vice versa, everything carried out under the premise of ‘change’, under the premise of the ‘social transformation we are getting through’ or the need ‘to adapt to an ‘ever changing environment’.

From the point of view of consumption, the future is considered as if it depended on the consumer himself, when if something is clear it is that the vast majority are nowadays paralyzed and depending on what we are let to do. We are not able to purchase at the same level as before, we cannot move around the world freely. In fact we cannot even ‘stay’ or ‘stand’ in some places. We have lost the capacity to speculate with our own lives. There are unemployed people that are not looking for a job because of the common feeling that nobody will be hiring. There is a tacit agreement to see what happens.

The following months will be for sure decisive to settle down the post-covid world in a more accurate way. What the street is telling us until now is that we are missing our habits as consumers and that we want them to be back with or without masks. We are not scared of being social as it has been thought but we do feel certain fear of what is going to happen when the virus disappears and we go on. 

This is the current context. We don’t know what will happen but the changes will come from the capacity of governments and companies to take leadership altogether. For this reason, one of the most repeated conclusions and recommendations of the sector is that brands must be social. But it is not that they must be social, they are already social by definition. Because what they do is to keep social relationships with their environment. Another thing is that now more than ever we all realise that a company without keeping relationships with their environment is lost. And now is the moment to reconsider the relationship with our environments.

I have always thought that we have misstaken social responsibility for solidarity and philanthropy. Just like the big philanthropists in history, brands have generated huge strategies of social responsibility, they have set up foundations, programmes and other strategies to improve their image forgetting that what makes you social – or any other thing– is not only what you do or are but what you are expected to do or be.

Thus, companies have behaved as NGOs without the expectation to be it. A solidarity action done by a NGO has much more social value than if it would have been done by a corporation. If Greenpeace saves the oceans it has more value for Greanpeace than what would have it if Repsol did it. 

It’s true that the expectation for brands to be social is rising. There is a call for brands to ve activists. But here we have two problems. First, one thing is the brand and other the company. Brands can launch socially committed messages but if the company ends up acting in a contradictory way, the message would be a waste, it would even be counterproductive. Secondly, brands wouldn’t have to be activists if institutions and governments took a step forward to really solve the problems we as society are facing. 

Every brand should think about it and get to know if they are really expected to be social. It would be also important to define what being social means. For us it implies to cooperate and collaborate with your environment enriching both you and your environment. It’s not necessary to be saviors of the world. How you treat your clients, who you partner with, to creatively participate in a conversation or to spend your money transparently are ways to be social. 

From our point of view Covid-19 has brought two central questions that affect directly to consumption and thus to marketing and communications:

  1. First is an obligated reflection from us as advertising professionals about the relationship between hyper consumption and sustainability. It’s now or never.
  2. Secondly is to try to put the pandemic in perspective to be able to really understand the concatenation of factors that generate social change.

During these days we will be publishing two articles in which we will develop these questions.

We invite you to stay tuned.

Signed ImprovisedPlanning

Picture: Banksy

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