Dead sorry, one of the judges has been up against it.
As such, feedback will be next week.
It will be worth it though, feedback will be comprehensive!!!
I ride my bike a lot. A lot.
Consequently I’ve got quite fast and quite thin - and now tend to spend more than a couple of quid on kit that will make me go faster. Lighter wheels actually make me go quicker, deep rims on said wheels cut through the wind when I go over 20 miles an hour, which is more frequent than a man of my age might expect.
Controversially, as far as my wife is concerned anyway, I also own a couple of ‘aero jerseys’. Skintight tops that don’t flap in the wind and manage air turbulence. I haven’t the foggiest if these actually make go faster, but here’s the thing…because I feel faster, I go faster.
They’ve tested skin-suits on cyclists and found that the ones with bad design, that do naff all to slice through air resistance, make them go faster as they BELIEVE they will.
That’s right, you can con yourself into being better than you are. For a planner and agency folk in general, that’s massive.
Because the other things about all this overpriced cycling gear is incremental gains. Lots of little changes and adjustments can add up to a lot.
Your clothes, dressing like you think a brilliant planner should dress, will probably make that presentation easier to write, or put you on top form for that critical meeting. For some that might mean a corduroy jacket and spectacles. Others, I’m afraid think it means Birkenstocks and Queen T-shirts. But whatever works.
Your environment. I can be very critical of agencies who insist on locating themselves in Shoreditch, Manchester’s Northern Quarter or The Meat Packing District. I believe they need to be closer to where real people live and feed off that. But then again, if you believe you’re in a place full of creative energy, it will drive you forward in a way working in non-descript business park will not. There’s plenty of evidence working in a buzzing city makes you naturally better at creativity and ideas.
Your office. It’s easy to laugh at impossibly well designed, achingly cool offices, but they do help, as long as they’re places you can relax and flourish in, that foster collaboration and allow space to think alone. They don’t have to cost the earth, but they do have to suit you. I guess, whatever you think a brilliant agency looks like, make it look like that and it will actually make you a little more brilliant.
Your work-space and tools. Surround yourself with quality and what you think clever, creative people like and enjoy and it will rub off on you. If you think they drink amazing coffee, make sure you get an aero press. Overpriced fancy notebooks? Do it. Walls you can write on? Feel free.
Real incremental gains. But it’s not just the placebo effect, there lots of little things you can do that actually do work.
Anyway, whatever works for you probably works, no matter what others might think.
Submissions are all in and have been for a while. Hopefully you'll appreciate judges are busy with the day and job and want give entrants' hard work the full attention it deserves.
Feedback will be published Monday July 4th!
Of course, really good ideas defy being put in a box - you just know it's good, you then need to figure out why, and how you can make it easy for the client to buy it it (it won't create work for them, it's easy to sell to their bosses because it's based on solving real business problems, it's easy to evaluate).
However, we live in world where too many brands are doing stuff because they can, rather than they should. They're inventing products and added value services no one wants, making 'content' no one wants to watch and basically doing stuff that is chosen for being cool and innovative, rather than what will transform business success.
This might be useful for the Planning School of the Web stuff by the way...where ideas will need to overcome budget and content and sponsorship mean you need to give more than you take to have a hope of anyone caring!!
Also, with so many stakeholders involved in making things happen these days - I worked on something recently that involved the creative agency, the digital agency, the media agency, the media owner, the content agency, the PR agency and the sports marketing agency - a creative/content/media/media owner brief or whatever no longer works as a basis to review ideas on the table.
This just might work.......
Does the product or brand actually have a clear part to play in the idea? You see too much stuff these days with a very tenuous link to what the client actually does or sells. People MAY engage with it, but it will do NOTHING for the business unless there is a link between the idea and the client business. And please don't come to me with 'brand awareness', I'm very aware of Donald Trump, but want nothing to do with him
Will it actually create some sort of change in how people think, feel or behave towards the brand or product? Advertising in all it's forms is really about removing reasons not to buy in the short term and delivering a DISTINCTIVE imprint in people's hearts and minds, so the brand comes front on mind in buying situations.
There are only really four macro roles for communication - you're either creating impact with people not interested in the brand or the category, changing what people who have an impression already think or feel (re-positioning), activating brand interest into action, or reinforcing what people think and feel already....and creating a new reference point hopefully (this coffee brand is about being a grown up...but did you know we have a more authentic heritage than you may have thought)
Others would say you should look at the business objective, define what that means in terms of what you need people to do they are not doing now, and then work out the most efficient way of doing that.
Does it get anyone remotely excited? If no one internally, or partner agencies, can be bothered to be excited, or want to make the idea happen, can you expect any real people with proper jobs and a billion things to look at and do on their phones to give a monkeys? Thought not. David Abbot once said, "Tell people about the product in way that cannot be missed". Don't forget the 'cannot be missed' part. A useful guide is if various stakeholders want to start building on it and doing their own little versions.
Does it give a much as it takes (or even more??) I mean does it feel like it's adding to what people really care about? Might people talk about it a bit? Does it feel bigger that the brand or category and add something to real life? Would you share it on Twitter? Brands need to accept no one likes people talking about themselves and we have moved from retailers and brands in positions of power to consumers. Show some respect!
Just a quick update.
A couple of people have asked questions about what assets and stuff you can use in relation to the Olympics.
What I've shared with them is as follows:
Hope it's going well, any other questions, just ask!
Right, it’s finally time for a new APSOTW project.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about read this.
We’re going to do something that’s very relevant for lots of different kinds of agencies at the moment.
The general blur between media, creative work, comms planning and that hateful word 'content'.
First point, if you work in an ad agency, don't expect to making ads forever and perhaps expect to be working for a media owner soon.
It also means that whatever kind of planner you are (and for me there is only one - the person who identifies the task for communications and how to achieve that task using evidence based insight that should include a sweet spot between consumer, market and brand/product) you need to be thinking about a wider skill-set.
If you work in a digital agency, clients seem to expect decent channel planning, perhaps more that 'creative planning' (whatever that is...maybe the dreaded 'ad tweaking').
There are more standalone communications or brand planning shops these days where clients expect not just creative strategy etc but channel recommendations.
Then of course, there's media agencies. Long held in great suspicion by creative agencies, as they seem to want to do the creative and own more of the lead agency status.
But then again, I'd wager creative agencies lost the automatic right to the top table by forgetting to talk about business and navel gazing more and more. No one cares if a brand model should be about purpose, community or whatever, especially shareholders, they care about silly things like business growth, margin and selling things.
There's no point moaning about clients spending more money on short term, measurable stuff like PPC and search when, basically, it means youve lost the argument, or where too complacemt for too long.
I work in a media agency now and increasingly find I'm asked, at the very least, to collaborate with a creative agency in a partnership fashion when it comes to leading strategy. However, I also find more and more that clients leadership and ideas as much as plans...and this often entails ideas about content and working with all sorts of partners to deliver this, from folks who own media channels, to vloggers and even entertainers.
Now, lets be clear, a well thought out, barn-storming ad campaign is still the most efficient use of money, but as people become hard to reach on TV and the costs are going up, while more folks block digital ads great, creative thinking across the entire piece and finding a way to show in people's lives is becoming more important than ever, and in many cases, media folks get landed with more and more of the responsibility.
So this is about a brief where the thinking is about channels, media and out-smarting the competition when you haven't got the luxury of a massive budget. This is what I seem to do with my day to day more and more, and what planners in any agency have to think about now.
And to make it more current, we’re going to build it around the 2016 Olympics, the event every four years that sees an avalanche of sponsorships, ads and God knows what.
And it’s a really simple brief.
Your client is Sam Adams Beer. An authentic Craft Beer Company based in Boston (the United States) - Google it.
The UK marketing team has come direct to you, a media agency with a brief. There are no agency competitors, basically, if they like your response, you get the business.
They have come to a media agency because they believe they’ll get great communications strategy, ideas and effective channel selection- and they don’t have any creative agency and want you to sort it. This is not a rare thing these days.
The brief is as follows:
Sam Adams is looking to grow aggressively, taking advantage of the global growth in authentic craft beers. To help us with this, we have agreed a deal with to be a bottom tier sponsor of the Olympic Games. This has been a considerable investment for us and we need to extract maximum value.
The UK has been identified as a key growth market for us. We have a budget of 400,000 US dollars to spend to activate our Olympic sponsorship and build our brand.
We have good distribution in all UK large supermarkets and upmarket bars.
What we need from you
We know that 400K isn’t a lot of money in what is going to be a very cluttered environment.
We want an integrated plan from you that will give us the confidence you will make a dent in the universe. Our bottom tier status means we don't even get any visibility on perimeter boards or anything, it's just that really prized permission to use the logo.
We don’t have any credibility in the UK yet, and therefore we’re looking for a strategy built around partnerships. Who this might be we leave to you.
We also have no extra budget for any creative work and have no assets as the global assets are very US focused and, we feel, not that relevant for the UK…so partners will need to help us create content.
We don’t have any specific phasing in mind – we just want to know that by the end of September 2016 we have seen an uplift in our UK fortunes
How we will judge your response
We’re in Boston in four weeks time with the global marketing team. We’d like a written response that not only blows out socks off, but one that we will be able to share with the rest of the global team. So it needs to be simple, concise and utterly compelling. It’s up to you if that’s powerpoint, PDF or whatever.
Don’t worry too much about the nuts and bolts in terms of frequency curves and such, what we want to see:
Clear exploration of our opportunity and what challenges we need to overcome
What your jumping off point is – some sort of insight (consumer, culture, market)
A clear idea
How your channels selection will bring it to life….and what content you and your recommended partners will create”
Some clues for you
Judges to be confirmed
Expect for now it to be:
A big hitting media person
A media owner
Deadline is 11.59 pm (UK time) Friday 20th May.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org (not the email in the menu on this blog)
Any questions just fire away.
Haven't thought about a prize yet - it's not really about a winner anyway, but I'll think of something.
Oh, and when you submit, please let me know if you DON'T want your submission published, otherwise it probably will be!
So we went to stay with Mum and Dad in Cornwall last week. I always treasure these times.
Mum and Dad are getting on, when you begin to realise they won't be around forever, you make the most of the time that little bit more.
It's one thing to become a parent, or have a moderately serious job. You think you may be all grown up, but until you emotionally reach the moment YOU will be the only backup in the family, I'm not sure you're totally mature. This is a very personal perspective of course, coming from a loving, supportive family unit etc. Some people have to grow up a lot quicker I guess.
Of course, these weeks are for me to spend proper time with my children. They are four and six now, Evie, our youngest is at that point when she's about to become a girl, rather than a little girl and you want to get as much of it as you can, before it's gone forever.
We always find when we go away with them, that they seem to change right in front of your eyes. Evie seems to have come home with even less of the 'little' in her and Will, our six year old is suddenly having much more intricate conversations and we can see in his developing features, more of the young man he will sadly become all too soon.
I'm not sure if it's because we have the chance to stop and watch them, without having to go off and do the usual stuff working parents running a house do, or the fact they respond to so much more time with us.
Either way, it serves as a reminder that no child will grow up remembering how clean the bathroom was, or how great Daddy's powerpoint was, or how well Mummy ran her team.
They'll remember how much fun they had, what we all talked about and how loved they felt.
Let’s be clear. Winning awards is nothing to do with telling the truth.
It’s mostly about what you can post rationalise to fit whatever people are looking for.
For IPA Effectiveness Awards for example, judges are looking for econometrics, some sign that above the line advertising still works and something new to tell the industry. The IPA is mostly about making adland look grown up and commercial – and create a bank of data for the IPA DataBank which will always tell you creativity pays back and do TV.
The APG Awards are looking for some sign that ‘planning’ had some influence on the creative work and, again, you have something new to tell the industry. In essence, the APG Awards exist to make planners look like a necessary evil rather than an unnecessary evil. And make planners feel creative.
Media Awards are all about evidence and some sign of innovation. Unlike most ‘creative awards’ where it can just submitting the work with a little background explanation, they’re looking for actual evidence you made a difference to a brand’s fortunes, they hate brand tracking and want actual evidence of sales and behaviour change. But as they don’t want econometrics, you can always find a sales story in the data somewhere. Boiling it down....., because media is boring, the direction of media awards is to try and make media interesting, but more grown up and serious than creative awards.
Creative awards judges are looking for something new and original. Something that hasn’t been done before. They couldn’t care less if it sold anything, or indeed of anyone saw it, as long as it rewrites the creative lexicon. Increasingly, unless you want to enter craft skills sections, this means avoiding actually entering ads and doing lots of social media/events/stunts that four people saw. The essence of creative awards is partly making creatives feel good since 80% of their work is destroyed by suits or planners before it gets to the client, then the rest is mauled by client committees and pre-testing. Leaving 1% of work running close to what was hoped for. The rest of creative awards is down to impressing creative directors at agencies you want to work at.
The essence of all awards is to pretend everything is perfect. Strategy, then creative or buying the plan etc, then production works like clockwork. When of course nothing happens until the day before the presentation and the idea that ran came from a rebrief after the client binned the original work.
The mis-quote the X Files, The Truth is Out There but it’s not in awards papers.
So, here’s a potted guide to winning awards..........
Awards do matter by the way. They are good for morale, clients really like them and brilliant for PR. Seriously, clients tend to select new agencies based on work they’ve seem.
But, like the industry, just don’t make a life or death thing.
It’s only life or death if you get too drunk and the actual do and tell your bosses what you really think of them (trust me).
Someone, I forget who, once said everyone is two people.
You have the person inside your head, how you think you are, how you think you come across to others. Exhibit A, the bloke in the media agency pushing mid-40s. He thinks the 36 inch waist squeezed into 32 inch designer jeans, paired with the Hugo Boss blazer comes across as smart casual power dressing. While the 32 inch waist size shows he’s still young and good looking. Exhibit B, the creative director (or Kevin Anderson) rocking the skin-tight black t-shirt to make him look young and edgy.
But then you have the other person, the one everybody else sees. Mr Media Agency, you just look like Jeremy Clarkson. Mr black t-shirt, man boobs were never a good look, not even in the 90’s where your outfit looked okay.
Just as the charismatic, off the cuff presenter (in her head) just goes in too much and looks really unprepared to the poor recipients of her nuggets of gold.
Arguably, there is a third one these days. The one in social media, that is maybe even more divorced from reality, but let’s not go there.
Then there are the planners. Who, on the outside tend to appear super calm, super open and generous all the time. No matter how you feel inside, you are the one who cannot lose your temper, have to earn your place in any meeting, have to look like you know what you are talking about even when you haven’t a clue and, know as much about everything as you can – be a super generalist, make the dullest subject matter seem interesting and, perhaps hardest of all, have to make the few gaps in others drawing breath count, as these are the only seconds you’ll get to say something.
Inside of course, we get just as frustrated, just as angry, just as nervous, suffer just as much anxiety, get just as bored as much as anyone else. This constant disconnect between internal and external dialogue, constant edit, precis and distil and constant hoovering up information, no matter how banal has side effects outside of the job.
In tricky family, or close friend situations, planner folk tend to assume the calm, conciliatory role. When everyone falls out at Christmas over Pictioanary, we tend to be reasonable ones who mediate between parties affronted over the unfairness of letting a seven your old write a word rather than draw, or the cousin who has one too many who offends Auntie Hilda by drawing some genitals.
That said, like Michael Douglas in Falling Down, planners can go the other way. All that calmness at work can mean they have a very short fuse at home and can crack at any second. This is rare, as planners tend to let off the internal pressure cooker with a chosen outlet.
Yep, most planners tend to do something which has nothing to do with planning out of the office. For some, that might be amateur dramatics, for others it might be venting spleen in a blog. Many find an outlet through sport. But rest assured, planners tend to have many outside interests. They may cultivate a persona of ‘being curious’ or ‘making sure they are interesting by being interested’- but mark my words, it’s all to do with making sure they don’t have melt down when someone tells them they’ve missed the breakfast serving by one minute.
All that extra stuff outside the office, couple with the factory visits, the cultural research, having to know what a fifteen year old finds interesting, while understanding what the hell your cloud computing security B2B client actually does, means planners have tons of pointless knowledge. This puts planet sized weight on the shoulders whenever there is a quiz. If there is some sort of agency quiz night, planners will never vote for a department based team structure, the expectation to win is simply too great –especially from the head of planning who will almost certainly lose that calm exterior and go Michael Douglas after endless goading from their other bigwig colleagues. But the mixed teams structure can be a blessing – as planners are never allowed to get their round in, as they need to be present for every question. Of course, it also means they have bladder issues, as they also are not allowed to disappear for a piss.
Dealing with unreasonable people become second nature though. You are so used to killing folks with kindness (Falling Down syndrome aside) planners are good at sneakily getting what they want.
However, this doesn’t go as far as relationships. We’re so used to persuading everyone, rather than just saying it how it is, partners tend to walk all over us. Even worse, we’re so used to not making the decisions, it can be problematic when we are actually given a choice. I’m amazing at making my wife and friends think they’ve chosen the venue for a night out, or what we’re going to watch on telly, but when someone actually says it’s my choice, I melt like warm Nutella.
Consequently, planning types tend to have very strong partners who know their own mind. Good thing too, if two planners got together nothing would ever get done, but at least they would never run out of conversation.
This willingness to be led by others by the way, also means planners should never organise any family outings, stag do’s or mates nights out. Seriously, unless you want to turn to Prague and find your hotel was booked for next month, or be driven into the wrong country (I have done both), don’t ask a planner.
On the other hand, if you’re going to get lost, get lost with a planner. We’re so used to it, we always deal with it pretty well.
Finally, we’re back to where we started, the clothes. Planners needs to look smarter than the creatives, but less smart than the suits. So we’re great at nailing the smart casual thing.
Unless it’s a media planner that is, the jeans, massive brogues, shirt and blazer is highly infectious and penetrates all levels of media.
Working in certain postcodes means some exceptions too. Anyone working around Shoreditch gets really good at spending a month’s salary looking like a tramp.
The general casualness of working attire also means that when you meet friends and family from work, it simply reinforces the impression we don’t have a proper job. When most folks in the pub are sporting a suit, or perhaps the dreaded chinos and suede shoes combo, turning up in £200 jeans and a Cat in the Hat t-shirt reveals you for the middle class dilettante you really are.
(this is too long to be spell checked and should be taken with tongue fully in cheek)
OK, so after the 'how not to train junior planners' here's some thoughts on how to go about it.
Although, I guess much of it has been covered by pointers in the last post.
Still, worth a positive outlook and some general pointers.
Much of it is based on some simple principles:
First, great planners are interested in much more than planning or advertising or even brands.We're interrupting what people care about, or these days, finding a way to be part of it, so the more we care about THAT the better.
Second, no two planners are the same, nor should they be.
Third, happy people produce better results and stay far longer.
Fourth, planners without evidence based work are just suits with more opinions.
Fifth, creative planners are losing their role as 'lead planner' with many clients.
Finally, it's hard enough being a senior planner type when you have to earn your right in the room, for a junior, it's Everest.
1. Great Planners are interested in much more than planning
This means you need to give them both the space and the encouragement. Agencies can work long hours, but when you are a junior, it's easy to think you need to stay late every single night, or get in at the crack of dawn. Some places make it known that this is encouraged, but all you get are tired and stupid people who are nowhere near their best.
What is worse, if they spend all their waking hours talking about advertising, they'll only plan for 'advertising' rather than planning for making real people care. Rather than pulling stimulus from the world at large and being able to inspire the team around what really interests people, to make advertising register, they'll just start doing 'advertising'.
Even more dire, they'll start thinking it's a desk job and not go out and meet the people they're supposed to making strategy for - real human beings. As has been said a billion times, research is a waste of time unless you observe people in their real environment. If you want to understand a species, go to the jungle. not the zoo.
So apart from sending folks out of the agency and protecting them from a 'presenteeism' environment, here are two stimulating things you can do:
First, give every junior planner (in fact every planner) a 100 day task every single year, where they have to go and find out something new and interesting about an important target audience for your clients. To focus the minds, they have to present to a senior team and even the client if you have that relationship. The evidence can only be what you have discovered from 'non-advertising' tools, no TGI, no WARC, no NVision. And they need to have some video of actually talking to people.
Second, get an 'interesting fund' set up, where everyone in your department gets £200 to invest in learning something new and interesting, or enriching a private passion. It could be learning to play the guitar, doing a video production course. They just have to write why they are choosing what they are choosing - and share what they're learned and what it's taught then about the job at the end of the year.
2. No two planners are the same.
In the previous post, we discussed the wrongness of the one size fits all planning approach. The problem with a proprietary process is that it makes you approach every brief the same way, and usually come out with the same solution. It's why every campaign out of Chiat Day looks like an Apple campaign and always has a manifesto in it somewhere. Just as doing the same workshop over and over again yields the same kind of idea.
Boundaries and guidelines are good. Fixed rules are not.
But it's much more than that. There are core planning skills of course, but even these are debatable. This is a good starting point.
Nowadays, the skills of a planner are too broad to be contained in one human being. Generally, you need to know how most stuff works and be able to knit it together into something more cohesive, but 'most stuff' is getting a very large requirement. Getting to grips with data, the rapidly changing media environment, digital and social media, the need for content as much as ads.
You need a team that's good at different stuff and can do things different ways.
Someone ace at data, I mean the really hard stuff, not just TGI.
Someone who lives and breathes digital (but get's it's place, double so for social media).
A good comms planner is a must these days.
But then someone who has the rare instinct for retail too. If you think retail is easy, try writing a brief that stimulates people into the saying the word 'sale' a different way, or someone who can handle a sales force.
You might need someone who get's healthcare, B2B, maybe someone who get's international brand planning.
In short, you need to recruit for filling gaps, not for carbon copies.
Especially folks who are good at what you are not.
They need to be assigned accounts that suits their skills and interests - and some that do not.
So they get to do what they're good at, plus enrich their knowledge and skills base. Give them enough space to learn from mistakes and issues, with enough support and 'open door' sensibilities so they feel they can come for help (and not be made to feel stupid).
As mentioned before, making them do secondments in other departments really works here.
All of the above kind of goes towards happy people staying longer and producing results by the way, which was point 3.
4. Planners without evidence or just suits with more opinions.
There's a vogue for 'ideas' rather than insight. I don't mean some sort huge revelation, which are hard to come by, but evidence based thinking that unlocks other people's skills.
My view on this stuff is that our task is to get to a really great task, a jumping off point for everyone based on: brand/product/market/customer/audience/media/shopping or customer journey/culture. Our task is to knit these sources of input into once clear task for communications that everyone can get behind. If you miss one of these, you haven't done your job, and if any of it doesn't have some evidence, you haven't done your job.
The core observation might have some sort of focus or emphasis.
For example, this was all based on a shopper insight that women bought lots of shower gel for men:
This campaign was based on a cultural insight that the Scots are very optimistic supporters who deal with defeat and victory really well, supported by all sorts videos from sporting events and street interviews..
With a special bookend after the games, based on the pyschology insight that we remember the end of things best, and stories of how movie companies film and research the ending scenes to death.
Anyway. For junior planners, I think we need to get back to training them to be very good researchers. Planners used to be focus group moderators who then turned the findings into usable hooks for strategy and creative work.
We rarely have budget to moderate groups for development (and I can safely say most of us know it's a waste of time) but now we have all that data freely available from the internet, trends stuff coming our of our ears, all sorts of market data, Mintel reports and, if you are lucky enough, TGI and Touchpoints. A really great planners will look at all that stuff and connect it in a way someone else won't.
Or they'll just go out an meet their audience and talk to them enough to understand the business issue in the context of real life...which is always the real competition for the brand. Just get some proof video, quotes and try and quantify it in some way.
I think our job is to teach junior people these skills (and some bloody senior people) and as a leader of a department, hold everyone to account .
And train your team to connect things. There are not really new ideas, just new re-combinations of old ones. I think that means teaching them to mind-map, teaching the unfashionable are of distillation and....
Make sure you have some sort of scrapbook initiative. Some of that is taken care by the 100 day projects and interesting funds from above, but it's worth having a scrapbook initiative. A vault of interesting stuff for everyone to draw on. I suggest a team TUMBLR, perhaps with a different editor every month. But the trick is to get the team to all contribute - as long as your hiring people with different skills and interests (you should be).
For me, all of the above will really help that 'lead planner' issue. It's fair game for any agency now and I feel that the planner that:
Has the most interesting things to say, the one people want in the room, will be that planner by default.
That doesn't mean they talk the most - in fact, they should be taught to keep their mouths shut, listen to everyone else and speak last (see IRN BRU thankyou ad insight).
They should be taught to plan for meetings, to have something evidence based to say that will make everyone think, create a discussion point and shed light on the agenda .
Like Gordon Gecko says here:
They should be taught to always know more about client business, target customer and relevant culture than any other supplier and, in the case of customer and culture, anyone in the client business.
These are more important than 'ideas'.
And, dare I say, the person that brings real life, the lives of real customers and culture into the room.
Which brings me to a final point.
The more complex your language, the more people think you are an idiot. The best planners speak human. The task of a leader is not tie their team up in knots with needless jargon and buzz words.
It is to set an example by speaking plainly and bollocking anyone in your team if they don't do the same.
Hope this helps.
(very busy, this will be riddled with dreadful typos, sorry, no time to check overly!!)
I got an intriguing email from someone recently asking if I knew of any posts from myself, or other planner types, about training junior planners.
I have to admit I did not.
Which, after thinking about it for a bit, was a little shocking.
There has never been more competition, between the various agencies that make up 'adland',to hire and keep talent than there is now.
This industry just isn't as attractive next to other career paths as maybe is once was. It's much less cool, pays less relatively, has less career stability and works long hours.
So, despite the prolific chatter all over the interwebs on 21st Century Branding, the Death of TV, the death of ad agencies, it's a real shame there isn't decent content on the hiring and development of great talent.
It's a focal point on much wider, real issues around the hours we ask people to do, how we charge for our ideas as opposed to our time and the general rule that if you want people to do well, stay and give you their best, you have to treat them properly and balance their quality of life and career path with the very real need to make money.
I replied with a few pointers, but I thought I might do a bit more here.
I'll start today with the easier one, what not to do. This is of course based on personal experience as someone who was a junior once, but also observations gleaned from the experience of others.
So, how not to train junior planners (and to some applies to junior folks in agencies per se):
1. Don't try and make them have YOUR idea.
The problem with many planning directors is that they are great at thinking and having ideas, but rubbish at bringing it out of others. This can be seen in the way they interact with other departments, they are the ones who stick to their strategy or proposition and don't like it being changed- as opposed to the ones who are great at generating and spotting great ideas from others ( have to admit I'm the latter, mostly because I don't have many good ideas and it's easier to get others to do it for you!!).
So it follows that when they let juniors have a go at a project, they won't be able to see the merits of the solution the junior comes back with, because they will already have something in mind themselves, so they'll belittle the poor bugger about what might be wrong with their thinking and evidence, rather than looking at what's good and what can be developed.
Even if it's bollocks, you need to find a way to praise their effort, show them why it's wrong and empower them to find another solution - rather than call them stupid and say, 'what you should have done it this'. There is no ONE solution, just like with economists who cannot agree on anything, there is more than one approach. Listen, help, encourage and guide. So...............
2. Don't expect them to work at the velocity as you.
So what follows should be simple, allow for the fact they'll be a little slower than you at stuff and when you work on a project together, you need to make time to talk them through things, explain things a little more and stuff.
I learned the hard way that there is no point telling my kids 20 seconds before we're leaving the house that it's time to go, then getting grumpy when take an age to find their shoes, pick a toy to take or go to the toilet, their agenda is not mine. It's like that working with juniors - you're dead busy, you could do it twice as quick, but if you don't make time to help people learn, they'll never get better and be stuck thinking nothing they do is good enough.
3. But don't be a light touch.
Once, planners were allowed to be late for things, to get lost on the way to meetings and generally be a little air headed.
No one has the time and patience for this any more. Because as they progress, they'll have to deal with more of a blur between 'suit' and 'planner' and do more things that people in real jobs have to think about.
Only let them get away with being late, lost or forgetful once. That goes for rigour too. There's a trend for planners to have 'ideas' these days rather than evidence based strategy based on proper examination of the information at hand.
It is critical to have evidence based thinking, otherwise you are just someone with opinions, even more these days with Lord knows how many people thinking they can own the strategy: the creative agency, digital, media, media owners, brand consultant and whoever else are all trying to own the lead strategy and even lead creative.
The only defense for a good working planning team and its agency is to be able to back up their ideas better than anyone else, and be able to de-stabilise first page, slap dash stuff from other folks. I'm not saying every idea should be backed up with a flash of amazing consumer insight (but I weep at the trendies who seem to think this doesn't matter anymore) but there is so much to be gained from looking at TGI harder, reading the clients' annual reports, or just bloody going out and talking to people who work for your client or real people on the street.
This goes for you too by the way, it's easy to fall into the 'because I say it is' camp when you get senior, because you can force your thinking through, which will come unstuck eventually, getting your team to back up their thinking encourages you to do the same.
4. Don't moan about the good old days.
This might manifest itself as 'the good old days when I used to work 16 hour days as a junior and spend 5 years not being allowed to go to a client meeting'- in order to rinse your people for every drop of energy they have.
Those days are, if not gone, they are fast going and there is no point burning your people out, and getting them to change to another career because they've had enough. Likewise, the good old days when you could charge a fortune, you made loads of TV ads, clients took more risks, bought more better work etc.
No one needs to hear they joined the industry too late, you're just encouraging them to do something else. And it really wasn't that much better was it? Rather, help them embrace the limitless possibility of mixed up media - and the fact that few are able simplify and make it something clients can embrace gladly.
They know more about digital than you do, they're on Snapchat and you are not (I hope) - embrace the future with them and stop boring them with a past that wasn't as rosy as you now like to believe these days.
5. Don't try and create cardboard cut-outs of yourself.
You will be really great, really experience dand able to apply it to all sorts of varies briefs and projects. You will have learned to overcome weaknesses and build on natural strengths.
But your are a one off, the product of a mixture of genes and experiences. Your are a one-off - and so are the people who work for you. They will have different in-built strengths and weaknesses, so making them work in only one way - be that developing workshops, the times of day they best work, getting respect from other departments, the style they write briefs in, how they apply research, how they present - in other words, your way, is doomed to fail.
Figure out what, in your own arsenal are universals anyone should know and practice (always sit in the middle of the table to get gravitas in a meeting, don't get excited about a high index on TGI until you look at the actual percentage of the audience, speak last in any review of any kind of work if you can) and then what should be a library of approaches for your team to try and see what works and what doesn't.
That also goes for presentation decks. They are the background and 'props' for the speaker, no more no less. Insist on any agency template if you like, but apart from that, it depends on how someone presents - naturally 'tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you've told them' 'find a theme' are universals.
But applying some storytelling structure etc, how that works depends on the person.
Just as some planning folks don't sweat a proposition (thoughtleader or core thought) in a brief or client strategy presentation, and work on a really juicy task, or even a transformational insight instead (but every brief or deck should have one focal jumping point, everything else builds up to or from this point, but then again that might be how I work!!!).
6. Don't be a parrot for the proprietary process.
Look, every agency in various disciplines sort of works the same. They flounder around for a bit, they get worried about the deadline, something comes up and then they work like mad to be ready for the deadline.
They hide this from clients as sell a process that gives the comfort of making things look professional and predictable (and procurement loves to buy a process). This benign conspiracy sort of works, as long as you remember it's a conspiracy and the process is really a load of bollocks.
So forcing your people to follow a process just doesn't work, especially as, as mentioned before, they need to find the best way to work efficiently in their own way. Make everyone work the same and you get the same stuff. Just as every brief isn't about 'disrupting the market or zigging where others zag'.
At the basics of communications strategy, there is only really 'impacting with the audience' 'activating people to do stuff' 'reinforcing how they feel, or what they know, about something, or 'Augmenting' - changing how they feel or what they know. But that's four, not one and it changes depending on the brief.
Your team need the freedom to explore these four ways, then understand how their thinking can be made to fit the 'planning model' or how the client thinks communications works - freedom, guidance. Not suffocation and constriction.
7. Don't over-protect them
I learned when I was a competitive swimmer that no amount of training can prepare you for real racing. The pressure, the way your body copes with adrenalin, how you respond when the pain kicks in and only willpower can help you carry for the final metres. You can only get better at racing by racing.
It's the same with client meetings, dealing with grumpy creatives, scary TV buyers, doing presentations or even the moment when the pitch team has a melt-down when they can't seem to crack the brief.
Gradual exposure, starting as soon as possible is the only way to get good at this stuff. The first cut is the deepest, but until you are able to get used to things, learn from mistakes and get used to the realities and pressures of the real job, you are not really doing the job.
Great thinking and insight is only 20% of it. Being able to persuade others of your thinking, internally and externally, empowering others, thinking on your feet and, critically, being able to deliver solid work time after time, being a safe pair or hands rather than a 'either brilliant of dire' planners are where the job is really done.
So honesty about where ideas come from, the fact they do not appear mostly as if by magic, they emerge and are developed by lots of reading, hard work, edit, precis and distillation and, also, having the dignity and generosity to include as many people as you can in the strategy, as they might strike lucky instead of you, which also means having the courage to admit when someone has some better thoughts and when you are totally wrong.
But also knowing when to be firm, when to let people down gently, to prove them wrong but leave them smiling, to be able to stand your ground without being obstinate.
In other words, always being the bigger person,
"Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted"
A lot has been promised by Big Data. Mega things. Most of it seems like over excited over claim, but probably, sooner or later, it might deliver.
There are examples today of how it can be good. The US House of Cards reboot is thanks to the number of people liking Kevin Spacey content also liking political drama.
But Big Data is also responsible for online retailers stalking me with re-targeted ads of things I have already bought. It's meant that when I buy stuff for my wife and kids, I can't move for ads selling me more of the same.
When any idiot human could intuit that I really don't want an avalanche of offers for women'srunning gear, Zara shoes or Star Wars Lego (okay, I'll give you Star Wars Lego).
Of course there is a great example of a US supermarket that got publicly roasted by a father, furious that his teenage daughter had been sent stuff for maternity, only for the father to apologise when he found she actually WAS pregnant and was too scared to tell him.
it can right, yet horribly wrong.
On the subject of supermarkets, big data has been around for a while, Tesco is the pioneer with its Clubcard, the value of knowing intimate shopping habits was priceless for them.
But Tesco in the last few years, if you excuse the expression, is fucked. It forget to look at what customers were really bothered about, what they cared about. In post recession UK, shoppers want a lot more simplicity, less hassle and it's uncool to waste things. The avalanche of short term offers, multi-buys and the like turned shoppers off looking for a trusted price, looking for great quality in less stuff, rather than pointless choice and fleeting discounts.
All the while, we started shopping for little and often. Many started looking for intimacy and the feeling of real care and attention, in some things anyway. While in others, they just wanted simple no-frills functionality. You could say that Tesco, with all its data, got squeezed between people wanting more stuff from a good butcher AND the simplicity of a discount grocer like Aldi.
Yet you can't move in marketing circles, and business in general, for data scientists. Like the web developers before them, or the social media gurus of today- and the brand consultants that still manage to sell snow to eskimos, these folks are the latest thing.
But let's not be too harsh. The central premise of data is still sound. It makes sellers wiser when selling to potential buyers and, when done right, adds value to buyers buy not wasting their time with things they have no interest in.
Now I know the arguments from Byron Sharpe about light buyers and targeting the whole market. Even today, ignore the arguments that mass broadcast media doesn't work, even with young folks. It does if it is done well.
But big organisations are still very dumb when it comes to their customers. They are numbers, not names. Perversely, the web has created the death of the human and the personal.
There is lots of talk of 'personalisation' but that is not the same as intimacy.
Old fashioned shopkeepers, who are now in vogue to some degree, were the pioneers of big data. They remembered what their customers liked, they recognised them when they came in. The fishmonger in Leeds market always kept mackeral aside for my Grandmother on a Thursday morning. Today, my local butcher knows when I walk in the door that I buy a mountain of his thick sausages and gets them out without asking. He knows a BBQ in summer and talks to me about new marinade ideas and stuff I haven't tried.
Some of this emotional intimacy can be delivered by the power of great brand building. Nike feels different to Adidas, it just does.That's why I sometimes don't believe the data about people not being able to say why a brand is different, it's like trying to do a questionnaire about why you love your children, it's a smudgy feeling that you can't always express.You remember how the brand feels when you're in buying mode, yes it comes to mind, but so does the emotional resonance.
But we can do better than that. Brands should be able to understand its customers better. Much of the personal, CIM marketing is a waste of time of course, working with heavy buyers who would buy anyway, but data should help us work out ripples of behaviour on a much larger scale.
A sports brand should know that loads of it's football buyers also love not just comedy, but what kind of comedy, what comedians. They could then set up a multi-platform football comedy show where their favoured comedians banter around footie.
An FMCG salad dressing company should know that people who like the brand but don't buy often also love a grilled chicken and do recipe campaigns with their favourite celebrities for using the dressing with chicken too.
Because ads in Facebook trying to sell me slippers are really not good enough.
But data is only a tool. I cannot replace imagination, emotional intelligence and intuition. It cannot produce the consistent ideas that recombine old ones.
It would tell Steve Jobs not to launch the Iphone.
It would tell Henry Ford people preferred horse.
Put another way, numbers can help us make sense of the world but, today at least, they cannot replace wisdom.
Where I work was responsible for this..
It's actually a simple idea.
Not so simple to pull off.
It took lots and lots of hard work.
That's the truth about innovation, new ideas or general stuff that isn't the usual or expected.
Having ideas isn't easy of course, but it isn't the toughest bit.
The toughest bit is getting them to ever see the light of day.
New ideas tend to look like hard work.
To account handling types who have to get the stuff made, and persuade the client.
To clients who have to sell in plans and stuff to commercially focused people who don't like surprises.
Clients for whom advertising and stuff is about 10% of their entire job.
Clients who want their lives simplified and who live in quarters of years.
So how do you get stuff like the Lego ad break made?
Make it something the client HAS to buy.
Don't make innovation and great work a nice to have.
Make it central to the strategy.
Clients and especially their finance directors don't want nice to haves.
They want stuff that will transform their business.
If you're a planner, this is down to you.
Make it easy to sell into the wider business.
Make it something anyone can explain in 30 seconds.
Because that's what your client will have to do.
Then make it seem easy to actually get off the ground.
Don't make it look like extra work.
If they want it enough, they'll put a bit more effort.
The trick of the Lego thing was that the team did the work with ITV and the other brands.
They worked their arses off.
They never expected anything done for them.
They did the work.
They took responsibility.
And then they made sure they could prove the effect.
By building evaluation into the sell.
Not just soft media figures.
You know, views, shares and the like.
Exit interviews in cinemas, to help link those that claimed to see the break and those that paid to see the film.
They wrote an IPA paper on it even.
That's the thing about innovation.
It's actually really boring.
Because it's a slog.
It's not for the glory seekers or 'ideas people'.
It's for the workers.
The folks that won't give up.
Just like any account that people think they would like to work on is usually incredibly hard.
Every time I've worked on something others might call 'sexy' it''s always been hard work.
Because good clients demand the best.
They expect to buy stuff that's not just great, it's commercially watertight.
And they're busy and expect you to do the work.
It's the crap clients that hard work.
Not least because they don't buy innovation.
But then again, they tend not to buy innovation because they haven't persuaded why they should bother.
In other words, creativity and innovation isn't about flashes of innovation and glory.
It's about the long slow grind.
"When the opinions of the masses of merely average men are everywhere become the dominant power, the counterpoint and corrective to that tendency would be the more and more pronounced individuality of those who stand on the higher eminences of thought"
John Stuart Mill
In other words, if you want to do the kind of work you always talk about wanting to do, you need to work twice as hard as everyone, and not be afraid of being different.
Now go into any agency department look at what they all wear, not the unspoken uniforms and ask yourself, are their any individual here? Is this really a hub of new thinking?
The results to Rob's tremendous assignment are here, do have a look, it's ace and people have worked really hard.
A useful way of looking a your relationship with clients is asking yourself, "Would they want to spend two hours on a train with you".
As a client once said to me. "You can have the best planning, the best creative and the best pricing, but you won't get anywhere if we don't like you".
So I was pleased to be invited to spend a whole weekend with some of them, riding 150 miles.
You know you must be doing something right when they're happy for you to see them in lycra.
Not to mention share a jacuzzi in the hotel after day one.
That said, they were a little incredulous at the pink overshoes.
To quote the commercial director, "What the fuck are they".
There was the cafe stops.
The ice cream stops.
The amazing landscape in the Scottish borders.
The sea on the run up to Edinburgh.
What wonderful people.
If you're buying outdoor in general, it's one message and that's it.
You have a few seconds, no more.
If folks take out one message and know who it's from, you've done your job.
With 'Street Talk' stuff like phone box's you have less. These are mainly for getting for people on foot in their day to day.
The ad I saw (below) really doesn't do that. Intentionally or not, it's three messages.
"Always fresh and tasty"
"Prepared in shop everyday"
And then a promotion to activate in that order.
The first has no place on street talk really, especially if they're trying to activate footfall.
The second is a very valid 'quality message' that gives me a reason to think "Might try Greggs today or soon".
The third MIGHT make me go in today to take advantage of the promotion, but I won't have noticed it.
Either the client has insisted to put in multiple messages.
The agency can't help trying 'brand stuff' in what is response stuff.
Or one or both hasn't a clue.
Now here's Oasis, with a 6 sheet, who are activating 'thirst' at point of need with a personality wrapper -rather than confusing brand with activation.
Scratch that, they've realised that single-mindedly tapping into a needs and doing it with the right tone and wit can deliver crisply - doing a longer term brand job as well as 'activation'