Anthropology and Account Planning

My book

My book entitled “The Genius of Kinship: The Phenomenon of Human Kinship and the Global Diversity of Kinship Terminologies” is finally out from Cambria Press. Cambria Press has been professional and fast, and I am glad I could talk to them not only as an anthropologist but also as a marketer. The book is available for purchase from Amazon.com. It means a lot to me and to those people who shared the toil of proving a Newtonian idea to Platonic academics. But what I am trying to do today is not to pontificate on the delights of successful scholarship but to understand why I got hired by an advertising agency. It’s quite a leap from kinship terminologies to account planning, isnt it? Yes, I wrote this book three years ago (then peer reviews, editing and waiting), and since then I’ve read a lot on culture and consumption, but still… What’s the connection? Overtime I’ve worked with or talked to a bunch of account planners. We both seemed to focus on the same thing: culture. Account planning as a representative of the “voice of the consumer” and a subsidiary to creative agency work emerged in the late 1960s. That happened around the time when anthropologists decided to take “the native’s point of view” and dropped out of business, military and the government. Anthropologists became enamored with their worldwide humanistic mission and hence unwilling to cooperate with the government or the corporation. Anthropologists believe that all cultures are constructed but they refuse to be part of this construction. They prefer to keep the cycle “student-teacher” closed. These days account planners know more about ongoing pop culture, media and technology than an academic anthropologist. They are realistic, optimistic, competent, ironic and professional. But then all the account planners I’ve met are dropouts from various graduate programs: drama, comparative literature, law or medicine. They became disenchanted with the manistream and tapped into their childhood fantasies. Or, they became disenchanted with their childhood dreams because dreams do not pay the bills.

Anthropologists who enter business have some catching up to do. But they bring into adversting agencies, design shops and manufacturing corporations that subtle thing called authorship. In a world driven by ownership, with all the hierarchies and bureaucracies stemming from it, authorship is rare but increasingly valuable. Anthropologists in business are capable of generating content from bottom up (i.e., without taking anything for granted and deriving a truth from signs only) that adds to the traditional creative content and helps define in every specific case where a brand ends and a culture begins, what is a good and what is a service, who is the consumer and who is the producer, who is the manager and who is an employee, who is the investor and who is the entrepreneur, etc. This analytical job leaves the cultural code bare and allows the creatives to recombine it into a new unique whole. Culture is permeated by a kind of mystical kinship that makes this kind of analysis and this kind of synthesis possible.