So it befalls me do the next Account Planning School of the Web project. How one follows what Gareth did last time is obviously beyond me, but I’ll try to fail gloriously.
If you don’t know what it is, you’re best reading Rob's history of asignments. Basically, planning legend Russell Davies started helping aspiring and young planners with online projects and then passed the baton onto Rob, Gareth and myself.
Rob’s last task was brilliant, as it dealt with a real world situation -the dreaded client RFP. I loved this as it dealt with the realities of the job, rather than the floaty, pie in the sky philosophy sometimes peddled in conferences and post rationalised case studies.
The reality Rob addressed is that clients often want great ideas, but are often in thrall to cumbersome procurement procedures. You have inspire them on very formulaic platforms. I don’t mind this, like the discipline of the 7 sylable haiku or the 140 character tweet, much creativity is unleashed by constraint if you embrace the confines you’re working in.
Look at these Youtube pre-rolls that embrace the fact young men hate them and you’ll see how creativity can be unleashed by the confines of what it has to work with.
Then Gareth showed us the realism of the fact that clients need to be convinced of the need to do communications campaigns at all. Finding a role for comminications that will transform business succsess is ALWAYS the primary task of planner in my view.
Now since Gareth did his task, I’ve found myself in a media agency. My primary task is comms planning. I don’t exist to bring big, long term brand ideas kicking and screaming into the world. I exist to help clients identify the biggest challenge they face THIS YEAR, or even THIS quarter, and what they should do about it.
The operative word here is SHOULD. The problem with the explosion of media these days, is there is tons you could do, the hardest thing to identify is what you should DO.
How this works in practise changes by agency and client. You should read Julian Cole’s slideshare on comms planning.
In his world, the brand planner will come up with a fundamental campaign idea, (his example is Puma’s Out of Hours athlete), the comms planner will then focus on how this should actually be implemented – the barriers the campaign needs to overcome to work and the right media to make this happen.
My world, and I suspect the world of most planners is a little simpler…and harder.
The reality goes a little as follows (and since the last two projects dealt with reality so shall I) I:
The client will give you a commercial objective and some thoughts on what comms might do about it
You have to then look at market, consumer, brand, product to identify the most efficient way communications might help
This is boiled down into a clear communications task
Which is then boiled down further into sub-tasks and recommendations for different media and content.
Then it gets given to the creative agency and other partners, or the creative agency has to do it in the first place!!
This is what I’m going to want you to do.
This is important, it matters.
Because this is what really happens when brands are planning for next year, or a big event.
And more and more, the reality I have found is that the responsibility lies less with the creative (or brand agency) and more with the media folks. Not always, but you’ll find this more and more, unless you work at BBH like Julian Cole. And even if you do I (or want to), mastering the fundamentals of comms planning means you can collaborate with the media agency better, and defend where you have to and come up with ideas like Yeo Valley, which came from media thinking - one spot in the X Factor, leading to mashing up popular music culture with the product's 'natural' truth.
It also matters because innovation within strict boundaries is the secret to unlocking creativity, which is why the most beautiful poetry in the world follows strict rules, and many of the the most game changing, uplifting songs have verses, chorus and a middle eight.
And, just with creative execution, innovation of comms and media planning pays back more than anything else you can do (according to vast swathes of research into PHD case studies).
The next post will share some case studies to help you see what I mean and what I'll be looking for.
Then the next will lay out the ‘client brief’ and the task.