Tag Archives: planning

What Kind of Planner Are You?

Advertising agencies have not been really good at naming themselves, but we have been quite creative in making up new job titles. We had interesting discussion with fellow Finnish planners about the difference between “planner” and “strategist”. This prompted me to explain the differences between different planning job titles:

Junior Planner: Coffeemaker.
Traditional planner: Hopefully unemployed.
Planner: Person who spends weeks (sometimes months) with creative brief and either comes with truism or something totally unhelpful for creative process.
Planning director: Planner, who uses fancier words.
Head of Planning: Planner, who drives fancier car than you.
Strategist: Wannabe consultant.
Creative strategist: Failed creative, who cannot write or draw.
Growth Hacker: Wannabe start-up guy.
Researcher: Planner, whose slides make even less sense.
Analyst: Person who lies by using numbers instead of words.
Innovation director: Person, who does not have any budget, responsibility or real projects.
Trend planner: Dude who just surfs web and posts random stuff identifying them as “weak signals”.
Digital strategist/planner: Person, who thinks that it is still impressive to put different digital channels in boxes on PowerPoint and call it a channel strategy.
Engagement planner: Same as digital strategist, but he uses arrows between the boxes.
Social media strategist/planner: Person who talks about engagement and conversation and no one is engaged.
Mobile strategist: Person, who says that mobile is the next big thing.
Content strategist: Person, who would not know good content if it would hit him in the face.
Thought leader: Planner, who has written a book (that no has read)
Keynote speaker: Planner, who spends majority of his time self-promoting himself at seminars.

If you have any additions, let me know at the comments.

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The Seven Characteristics of the Great Concept

I think many advertising problems are mainly problems on having a common language.

People talk about same terms, but everyone has a different meaning attached to them. The most alerting situation is when there is not an unified vision of the most basic advertising terms within the agency. When people do not share the same ideals while speaking about strategy, concept, insight & idea, you end up doing disoriented work. That work does not answer business problems and it does not touch the target audience in relevant ways. I think one of the most misused terms is concept, so I wanted to share my views about that particular term.

The Seven Characteristicts of the Great Concept

1. There should not be ever such thing as a bad concept.
I believe in quantity when it comes to ideas. I rather come up with 999 ideas to be happy with the one brilliant one, instead of doing five rather good ones. The concept is build on the great ideas. And upon the killed ones at well. When you are moving from ideas to concepting phase, you should not be medling anymore in mediocrity. That should be scrapped along the process. Bad ideas might help to make good concept, but you cannot turn bad concept into a good one. Be ruthless when evaluating which makes concept.

2. The concept is integrated by nature.
TV ad is not a concept. Website is not a concept. Funny stunt is not a concept. Still I bet that everyone has encountered (or even provided) ideas, which might be fairly good ads but could not be leveraged to work properly and fluently across all the channels. If someone says: “We have a good concept, but it does not turn to mobile/tv/internet/outdoor/inset whatever channel here”, you really do not have a good concept. Good concepts rise above the media channels. In good concepts all the touchpoints work together to build the greater campaign. So even though coming up great concepts is hard work, the executions in different touchpoints should come quite effortlessly.
There is always a need for great conceptual thinkers in this industry. That conceptual thinking ability is what separates the truly great from a mere wordsmith or visualist.

3. The concept has potential to live long.
We live in fast world, which is just getting faster everyday. Even the really brilliant concepts have less time in market than before. However, with good concepts you sense the potential that it is more than just an one-off. You can see the opportunities to carry and nurture it for years and years to the future. The common mistake is to change winning concept too fast. Brand representatives and advertising agencies get tired of the concepts more faster than general public does. Many times you see that fully functioning concept has been replaced with a new mediocre one, just for the sake of it being new. New is not always equivalent for better.

4. Concept fullfills strategy.
Strategy is about identifying the most pressing business problem/opportunity for the customer and finding the most straightforward answer to it. Concept is the creative path to the consumer mind, action & wallet fulfilling that strategy. If strategy is wrong, you will not be able to come up with great concepts. That is why agency should really spend more time kicking around the customer´s main business problem (and not just just planning department). Whole team has to believe the strategy and be behind it. If there is reason of doubt or resistance among the team, the end-result will again be a lackluster campaign.

5. The concept is scalable & flexible.
Because of the channel-agnostic nature of great concepts, you have much more flexibility in terms of production. You get better results with an excellent concept under tight budget, compared with mediocre concept pumped up with big production money. The scalability goes other way as well, the more resources you can put into concept the better it gets.

6. Great concept pushes the envelope

You have to fight for the great concept within the agency and with your client. Mediocre and small-minded people will always try to find reasons to prevent groundbreaking and highly effective work to come out. Good concept pushes the boundaries and goes against the category conventions. This does not necessarily mean controversial work, but if your concept is not highly differentiating, it will not work.

7. Great concept is simple at its core
No matter how complicated or how many phases in the initial campaign will be, the core of the great concept is usually explained easily in a couple of sentences. The answers to questions “Why” and “What” should be as simple as possible, the “How” might be more pages or presentations. The craftmanship, rigor and the time invested to actual production based on that brilliant simplicity will make miracles. There is no shortcut for perfection and many times the final extra mile makes all the difference.

“When working in agency, we have to speak the same language both inside and to outside as well”

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What is Stand-up Strategy?

First of all, I am quite sure that I have not come with the term myself. I must have heard it somewhere. Do not remember whom, so I just stole it as a name for my blog. If you are offended, then poor luck. This is advertising after all.

Stand-up strategy does not mean that it is necessarily funny, although you have to have certain kind of humor to be in this business.

Instead for me stand-up strategy is about these five things:

1. Standing up instead of sitting down.

Marketing strategists and planners have got themselves in trap.

We, as a profession, have been on a road to just become poor man´s management consultants. We have tried to complicate things, instead of simplifying them. We have estimated our value of the number of slides we have made or how thorough creative brief we have done. Those things do not matter.Only thing that matters is the quality of the work and the bottom line of the company.

We have to get out from the computer to meet the people, find the insights and understand the behavior of the people who might someday be the customers.

So get of your seat and start doing things.

2. Intuition and point-of-view is what separates you from others.

Google has replaced the average planners.

There was a time when information was scarce and planner could make himself worthwhile by just having the access to information. Those days are long gone. Information is abundant and nearly everyone has the access to the same information channels.

That is why the Planner has to stand up and tell also what he feels and what is his point-of-view.  Not saying that there is a shortcut for digesting all the information. We have to do our homework more than ever.

Read blogs, magazines, books.Watch movies, tv & documentaries. Talk with colleagues, peers, consumers & influenceres.

But those are just starting point. Having the information is only about competitiveness of today´s planner. Competitive advantage comes from your point-of-view. That is the biggest asset you have and you have to cultivate it.

After careful evaluation of all the information & data, act on your gut-feeling.

3. Planning is translating business to creativity.

Planning is a service function. You provide the springboard for creatives for the creative leap. You help account executives to sell more. Only thing tangible what is left from our work is well-performing company financially and creatively. People can live with incomplete creative brief, but they cannot leave with incomplete creative product.

Good planner is a bipolar person. He gots kicks out of creativity. He also gots kick out the business side of things. Usually he has had a hand on both of these crafts. Planning is the most rewarding but the least-respected craft in advertising. Are you ready to take on the task?

Do not trust planner who has not sold a project or not done an ad. 

4. Combining insight & behavior is the key to the success.

How many fresh new insights have there been in beer category lately?

It is still crucial to find the soul of the brand and go as deep to the customer´s head as possible. However, you cannot just push your message nowadays and hope to spark some kind of emotion. You have to lure your brand to everyday life of the people. I do not understand the separation between traditional and digital planners. If planner does not understand digital channels nowadays, he or she should be out of job. And same goes to otherwise, knowing all the latest social media channels is worthless if you do not have the knowledge of the good old art of persuasion. Even though technology has evolved we as a people are driven by quite simple things. Such things as sex, greed & jealousy.

You have to know how customer feels and how he behaves.

5.We have to reinvent this whole ad agency stuff.

I hate silos. That is why this whole departmental thinking of account-creative-planning is quite absurd for me. Our business is quite simple if you think about. We are on the quest of finding the emotional connection of the brand and consumer, which on the long run will concretize in the cash register.

Lee Clow put it great:

“We’re supposed to be a creative business, but I think we have been probably the least creative industry in the history of the world in terms of figuring out how to get paid.”

We have to think about deeper how we operate and how we make profit in the future. The collaborator who works closest with the brand, will be succeeding in the future. Will it be an advertising agency is left to be seen?

Learn the history, to know all the rules you are going to break.

These are my rules and if you do not like them I have some others as well.

From this standpoint I will be writing my observation from the industry and the future of planning and advertising as well. Welcome aboard.

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