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Think BR: Six provocations to make planning relevant again

This year planning can help bring back some much needed confidence, writes Mark Hancock, head of strategy, Lida.

Mark Hancock, head of strategy, Lida

Mark Hancock, head of strategy, Lida

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2012 was a difficult year for brands. Finances were scrutinized, reputations suffered, and trust was called into question. Mostly this was a mixture of incompetence and a belief that size can be a buffer against accountability. How wrong they were.

Accountability is most likely to be the watchword in 2013 on both sides of the fence with the worlds of advertising and marketing having had their fair share of wobbly moments. I believe that planning can play a far more significant role in helping bring back some much needed confidence by simple ‘unitasking’ - the relentless pursuit of excellence in creating effective creative work and not getting sidetracked by the latest thing:

  • Swim against the tide

Stop believing the hype that the advertising industry needs to fundamentally change or it will become obsolete (usually written by digital folk with no deep background in marketing to speak of).  Well run advertising businesses are in good health and we would do well to share more of our affection and respect for an industry that can deliver extraordinary competitive business advantage through ideas. If we show we have faith in it because of its measurable potency then others will inevitably follow.  

  • Be more schizophrenic

Planners need to be more at ease with the demands of balancing the magic and the logic. We must be increasingly numerically fluent and less theoretical and therefore more relevant at board level, yet be playful enough to see how serendipitous connections can create powerful new combinations in the creative department. Of course, we then need to brilliantly articulate it. But the magic and the logic have got to be equal partners. 

  • Put down the soldering iron

Stop banging on about innovation. Our job is to create wealth through ideas for our clients’ businesses - not to invent the next Instagram. So planners - please put down your soldering irons, metaphorical or otherwise, and study the reasons why you picked it up in the first place. Your job is to ask 'why?' and to understand the drivers of human behavior - then apply that to answer the business, marketing and brand objective. And when it comes to technology remember ‘Just because you can doesn’t mean you should’. 

  • Collaborate less (but more with better people)

It is better to assemble a group of hugely talented people and get things right more often than collaborating with a lot of enthusiastic, but badly organized planning types who have been led to believe it’s OK to ‘fail and fail fast’ lots of times.

That was a conceit of Silicon Valley - a nice phrase, but a luxury we don’t have in these austere times. Planning should facilitate this and be more brutal in the choice of who gets to play. That way wannabees can study how really good people do it and aspire to greater things rather than blog about how failure is ‘really cool’. In and of itself it’s not.

Yes, taking risks can pay off, but being rubbish isn’t a virtue. 

  • Beware 'Big Data’ snake oil salesmen

Nowhere has the Emperor’s New Clothes been more exposed than this. We have more data than ever before yet there hasn’t been a dramatic increase in sales uplifts without there being some form of personal data issue being raised. Remember that data is created by human beings - and, so far no-one has ever accurately predicted future patterns of human behavior. 

  • People don’t ‘need’ your brand in their conversation

Understand that ‘likes’ on Facebook are a lazy way of measuring success and brands have no place in social spaces unless they are both useful and interesting. And that means creating socially relevant content which takes just as long as any great piece of advertising. 

Some brands are sociable and some just aren’t - learn the difference and don’t be afraid to tell your client that not everyone wants to either ‘like’, ‘love’ or ‘be friends’ with their brand - they might just want to buy it. And your job is to help create the conditions where they do just that.

Mark Hancock, head of strategy, Lida


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