The thing about promising to do stuff online means you have to do it. So here's the first bit of commonsensical advice for people who are thinking of going into planning:
Why have planners at all, and why they're more important than ever?
It was the first session in The APG Networking course, and as far as I'm concerned, something anyone in marketing should hear. George Bryant did the talk. Don't expect anything ground breaking, but I still find it a good call to action. And don't forget, this is a translation of HIS words.
I'll pick out a bit that has has lots of resonance with why I'm doing this is the first place. He told us all that it takes about 5-7 years to find your voice. Up until then you need to focus on doing the basics really, really well. After that you can begin to invent, but before you start to do planning you're way, you need to know what rules you're breaking. That doesn't mean having the job title 'planner' as far as I'm concerned, but it does mean being involved in strategy at a client company, research company or agency.
Most account handlers in agencies outside London are strategists by default, since they have to do the work of absent planners. To be honest though, that tends to involve giving a lifeless brief to some poor creative and getting them to arrive at the real brief themselves. If all this stuff does is make a few creative briefs more usable, that'll do.
Incidentally, as an account exec I learned more about strategy from creatives than ayone else. You know who you are and thanks for your patience.
Imagine it's around 1950 in the UK. You can have any car as long as it's black. The average supermarket stocks about 300 lines. There's one television channel. You have to buy things before they sell out.
Marketing was easy then, we lived in a world of undersupply. Basically, if you told someone what something did, and it was available, that was pretty much it. Even in the 1980's you could get away with spendinga fair bit on TV and bludgeoning your message through.
Now fast forward to 2007. Not only can you have a car in any colour, there are hundreds to choose from. The average SMALL supermarket stocks 30,000 lines. There are hundreds of TV channels to choose from and, well, we're making too much of stuff. Think of anything you might want to buy and you're faced with a bewildering choice. 90% of new grocery products ultimately fail in the US. And all that goes for those carfeully crafted marketing campaigns too.
Back in 1950, we got around 300 selling messages per day. Now it's around 3,000.
But our attention spans have not changed. They are still around 50 hours per week. There is just too much for us to take in. Human bandwidth is limited.
And that means one thing - attention has to be earned, not bought. Buying space isn't enough, you can't buy people's attention now. If you want people to take notice you have to earn it.
We get 3,000 messages a day. We pay attention to about 50, we engage with 25 and we act on 3. That's pretty long odds.
Thankfully our opportunities have never been greater. There's still TV, press and posters of course, but now there's the internet, social media, PR (which is oddly diverced from creative in most cases)phones, DM, sponsorhip, branded content, experiential media - the list is endless.
And this is where planning comes in. Someone has to make sense of it all. Someone has to distill all that choice down into something that will will make people want to give you their time.
Their are pioneers, and since this post is already getting long, here's just one famous example:
Subservient Chicken from Burger King was based on the discovery that a significant proportion of Americans have the computer in the same room as the TV. So they ran a TV ad promoting something the audience could enjoy doing straight away. It was all based on THE FACTthat you could have a chicken burger you could 'have your way'. The creative was great, but the idea was as much about finding something people would want to spend time with. It's a fact of retail that the longer you spend instore, the more money you spend which means making instore as enjoyable as possible. It's sort of the same with communications.
So we need a new agenda. Marketing is getting tired. Strategy itself needs to be creative. That doesn't mean leaving out the basics. We still need to understand who our audience is and what we need to tell them. We still need to delve right into the culture of the client company, it's product, service and category.
But finding the truth is not enough. You need to tell the truth and INVENT. Strategy needs to be creative. Process that leads to ideas. Science that leads to art. So we've never needed good planners more than we do now. Not planners who have ideas about advertising, planners who have IDEAS about everything - and can prove they'll work. Attention is simply too precious these days.
New laws to live by:
And that was that. Before he started there was a room full of young-ish people sizing each other up and enjoying the free booze. At the end you could hear a pin drop.
After that we got a series of lectures on other bits, some of which I'll share (just wait until I recount Russell's talk on working with creatives). We also did a course project on preventing teenage smoking. I'll show off quickly - my team won, not least because we had David Bonney. Seems ages ago now.