Aside from inspiring a classy wardrobe, what can urban planners learn from characters like Don Draper and Peggy Olson? What cues should urban planners and policy makers take from the field of advertising to help pitch planning ideas?
Urban planners are problem solvers, proposing changes to the status quo. Lasting change requires buy-in from the community, but getting buy-in for complicated policies or controversial plans is not always easy. In a quest to satisfy legal requirements, planners often focus on presenting codes, statutes, and statistics. When more time and resources go toward framing the legal argument, less time is spent crafting and managing the “big picture.” Presentations and reports rely on safe buzz words and generic phrases like “sustainable growth” or “walkable urbanism.” These canned phrases blur, rather than articulate, our planning ideas and do little to inform or engage the public. If there is one thing to learn from Don Draper, it is the power of painting a vivid picture that is part of a larger story.