Here’s a comment e-mailed to me by Graham Watt, friend & neighbour, in response to my post – A Greater Need for Trust:
The communication of bias
My argument against the centralizing use of planners for developing creative thought can be placed within the Harold Innis idea of the periphery being the source of ideas which can offer original perspectives. Whether we talk of rebel groups forming in the mountains, religious sects taking over mainstream religious thought or even the fact that Toronto seldom develops its own talent, instead attracting it from the perimeters then blending it into its normality, we can picture original thinking starting to build, moving to the centre becoming a monopoly and finally consuming itself. Innis showed how civilizations moved into being before ideas from the perimeter began competing, overcoming a balance and these ideas then becoming a monopolistic force. We can see this in the sixties in advertising when the Bernbachian approach moved from the outsider Jewish milieu into mainstream New York advertising and dislodged the incumbent Presbyterians, the chosen ones themselves then eventually dislodged by the advertising technocrats and their acolytes, the planners.
Perhaps we can see something of Innis’ later observation on the power of the periphery to generate perspective if we consider the operas of Wolfgang Mozart and his lyricist Da Ponte. Jane Glover, in Mozart’s Women, explains how the extraordinary creative team of Mozart and Da Ponte worked together so productively. Both Mozart and Da Ponte were essentially outsiders, never fully accepted by the establishment; yet their peripatetic lives, together with their current situation on the fringes of society, had furnished them with superb powers to observe, accumulate and interpret the infinite varieties of human behaviour. Each could therefore portray immense subtlety in theatrical characterization, whether for instance in the modes of expression and colloquialism between the different classes or in overt manifestations of real human emotion “what is said is not necessarily being what is felt, which nonetheless is acutely revealed”. How similar this sounds to the feral advertising team; observers distanced from the power structures of their agency milieu but able to observe, being away from the every day systems, but firmly within the environment of their audiences and fully capable of reaching them persuasively.
My argument is that it is the feral, free range thinkers, the creatives, and misfits, perennial dwellers of the perimeters of power, whose talents are lost here. Their move to the centre ultimately deprives them of their power which is the individuality of the perimeter, in terms of creative thought. When the best of these creatives set up their own agencies they prosper for a time but inevitably become so centralized that they themselves are forced to adopt the technological additives which eventually assure their downfall.
Therefore, agencies like Taxi, Grip, Palmer Jarvis DDB and others of great creative force, are in constant danger from their own success, because success attracts big money, and with it comes technology which breeds systems which are enclosures and enclosures breed complacency.