“Chief Culture Officer,” the talk Nancy Hill doesn’t want you to hear

I did my best.  I canvassed Nancy Hill.  I ask, I pleaded, to speak at the AAAA planners' conference in SF this fall. 

As I was getting to know the marketing, branding, advertising communities, I would hear these great stories about planners' conferences.  And I've been trying to get there ever since.  After all, planners and anthropologists are birds of a feather, theoretically, methodologically, and most of all as students of American (and not just American) culture. 

But I had an ulterior motive.  I am publishing Chief Culture Officer in the fall, and this, I thought, would be a great opportunity to talk to planners, who I hope will like the book and bless it with their interest and approval.  Yes, I wanted to go to the AAAA planners' meeting to suck up to readers, to curry favor with these king makers of the marketing world.

But no!  Nancy Hill wouldn't return my emails.  She rebuffed the people I asked to act as my intermediary.  Apparently there was no way I was going to talk…to her or at the AAAA. 

I'm sure Nancy has her reasons.  And one of them may be her hostility for bloggers.  (See the article below by Hoag from adage.com and the video clip of Nancy "firing back" at the blogging community.  See also Piers Fawkes opening salvo.)

My reaction was, as it always, is childish and petulant.  I determined to book a hall across the street from the AAAA meeting and stage an anti-AAAA (AAAAA?) meeting where I would deliver an address called "Chief Culture Officer, the talk Nancy Hill doesn't want you to hear!" 

Well, now I don't have to.  As a result of the downturn in the economy, the new media that threaten to disintermediate the conference project, and perhaps even Nancy Hill's hostility for one of the most vital groups in the planning community, the AAAA meeting for this year has been cancelled.  I don't mean to take any satisfaction in this event, but it does save me booking the hall. 

And now there are rumblings.  Tweets flew from Gareth Kay and Adrian Ho.  And today Mark Lewis has a post (see link below) in which he contemplates the possibilities. 

I sure hope they include the opportunity to give a talk about Chief Culture Officers.  I can't help feeling that my chances have gone up now that Nancy Hill is no longer playing gate keeper.  I'll keep you posted. 


Fawkes, Piers.  2007.  This Week's Waste of Life: The AAAA Account Planning Conference.  PSFK.com.  August 10, 2007.  here.

Lewis, Mark.  2009.  No Planning Conference – what are you going to do about it.  Planning from the outside.  June 25, 2009.  here.

Levins, Hoag.  2009.  Nancy Hill to Bloggers: 4A's not a 'Wank Fest'  CEO Rebuts 'Incessantly Negative' Cyber Critics.  AdAge.com May 4, 2009. here.

McCracken, Grant.  2009.  Chief Culture Officer.  New York: Basic Books.  (to be published in October 2009; pre-order at Amazon here.)

2009 Planning Conference, once at this address, www2.aaaa.org/events/plan09 and at this address, www2.aaaa.org/events/plan09/Pages/plan09_agenda.aspx, now returns "404."  How sad. 

5 thoughts on ““Chief Culture Officer,” the talk Nancy Hill doesn’t want you to hear

  1. Adrian Ho


    I’m really sorry to hear about your experience with the 4As. As a former AAAA account planning committee member I’m appalled, and frankly I think it’s fairly telling, something I take no delight in saying as there are a lot of good people I worked with at the 4As. Let me just say that as far as this part of the planning community is concerned, we always want to hear from you.



  2. lee maicon


    having seen you at last year’s psfk conference, it would have been the conference’s loss, had it actually happened. we planners ourselves are always open to being sucked up to by other bald, smart people.

    now that it’s not happening, perhaps this iteration of the conference that’s being discussed at Mark’s link you mention above http://www.planningfromtheoutside.com/ can be built entirely around the idea of Chief Culture Officer.

    we’re willing to be bought.

    as for pier’s rant on the 2007 conference, there was definitely value in the conference, i’m just fairly certain most of it happened out of the big speeches and even most of the breakouts.

    there’s a value to that conference, even in the world of PSFK and INflux conferences. I’m just not 100% sure what it is all the time.

  3. kelvin


    • We have just added your latest post “”Chief Culture Officer,” the talk Nancy Hill doesn’t want you to hear” to our http://www.projectgrant.info. You can check the inclusion of the post, Visit ”http://projectgrant.info/story.php?title=chief-culture-officer-the-talk-nancy-hill-doesnt-want-you-to-hear” We are delighted to invite you to submit all your future posts to the directory for getting a huge base of visitors to your website and gaining a valuable backlink to your site.

    Warm Regards

    Project Grant Team

  4. Mark Lewis


    Any time you and I have had a chat it’s been inspiring so why anyone would want to not amplify that is shocking. Having said that, it would be great to get away from the “preacher’ style of conferences. How about you pitch in and come to an laternative type planning get together in SF this September and teach us how to do stuff (without giving away all your IP) ??? Maybe how to become a Chief Culture Officer?



  5. Debs

    Grant – they just dont get the future – if you cant measure it they are skeptical. However – I cant wait to hear the talk. My suggestion – put some of it out there – videotape, interview etc and drive demand. Want me to interview ya?

Comments are closed.