Archive for April, 2010
You can fill in the Qs here.
Which prompted me to comment on his post that I had a post of my own chuntering about in my head about how the maturation of Digital might have created a bit of a conflict between Account Planning and Channel Planning. So here it is:
Ten or twenty years ago (depending on the size of agency and it’s geographical location), Account Planning was the Best New Business Tool Ever Invented (© Jay Chiat). Every agency that was big enough to afford it bought into Planning and put Insight at the heart of it’s business. Then all the big clientside brands put Insight at the heart of what they did too (Nike even hired W&K’s Head of Planning).
And then, in the last couple of years, Digital finally came of age.
Suddenly, there were media and channel options that were measurable yet also cool and cutting edge. In a recessionary environment, it was the answer to client’s prayers – the ability to do activity that was edgy yet ROI-able.
Every agency with a passing knowledge of HTML proclaimed themselves Digital Specialists. So the agencies that really did get Digital upped their game and put some real rigour into the process, introducing proper Channel Planning for their clients.
It almost becomes a numbers game – work out how much stuff you need to sell / how many people you need to change behaviour and work back from there in terms of conversion rates, click through and so on.
But Digital is still about Conversations. Its all very well identifying what the touchpoints are where you could have these conversations – but you need to know what people are likely to want to talk about too. Which is where Account Planning comes galloping back in, waving qual reports.
As Northern says, “Digital stuff hasn’t changed people, its simply enabled them to be more human…humans are social creatures and can’t help responding to others around them, wanting to belong to a group and acting social.
“In other words, it’s not enough to know the technology, you have to know people. You have to build ideas around how real people behave, be relevant, interesting, know when to show up, how to fit into their lives.”
Its chicken-and-egg. What comes first? – finding out where your target audience are most likely to be hanging out, or working out what messages will engage them?
I just worry that as digital becomes an integral part of everything (rather than simply a channel), we might sometimes forget that it is still all about the conversation.
So I went to my first side saddle show today (very exciting, enormously proud of horse for behaving so well etc etc etc). Anyway, all these ladies done up in full regalia of habit, bowler hat, veil and so on looked rather scary and unapproachable:
Nothing could have been further from the truth – a lovelier, more helpful bunch of ladies you could not wish to meet. Which got me thinking about the line on most creative briefs which asks:
Who are they and how do they feel about the market and the brand? What’s on their mind?
When I’m writing briefs, I’m going to think a lot more carefully about preconceptions from now on.
I was in Leeds city centre today and looking in menswear retailer Burton’s window I noticed that they were offering ‘free shoes, shirt and tie with selected suits’, as per the web offer below:
This is dead interesting (honest!). Burton must know that the majority of their suit customers do not already own a suit when they buy one from Burton. Because Burton’s customers are in need (i.e. do not currently own, because they have no need) of a smart pair of shoes to go with their new suit.
Which would lead me to hypothesise that most suit purchases in Burton are prompted by an event – job interview, wedding, funeral or even court appearance.
In fact, a bit of googling reveals that in 2001, during an interview with trade magazine Menswear (the mag where my Dad hijacked his weekly column to announce my birth, see I know my menswear!), Topman (which shares parent company Arcadia with Burton) brand director David Shepherd said: “Very few of our customers have to wear suits to work. They’ll be for his first interview or first court appearance.”
this Russian guy had a lucky escape last year when the brakes failed on a parked bus and it accelerated down a hill towards him (story & film @ The Telegraph)
For a Planner, I’m probably a bit too organised. Which means I occasionally get lumbered covering client meetings for absent account directors or sorting travel logistics.
Like Mary Baskin wrote for the APG, it can sometimes be a good idea to feign incompetence. But there are a few organisational type things that everyone in an agency should try harder at, Account Planners included:
1) File as if you might get run over by a bus tomorrow. Whether its piles of paper or digital files, store them in a way that if you didn’t come into the office tomorrow (or ever again), someone else could find them easily and crack on.
Even if that bus never hits you, other stuff can still knock you for six – I went home one day with tummy ache, then had to ring work from the hospital to say I was about to have my appendix out and would be back in a couple of weeks-ish…
Full-on filing not only means that your own life will simpler as you can quickly lay your hands on almost any data/qual report/email, but as a bonus everyone else in the office will think you are some kind of all-knowing genius type person who can instantly recall facts, figures and client/supplier blackmail material.
2) You can either be early or late for everything. Being On Time is practically impossible. So plan to be early, which means maps, satnav and physically dragging the other agency meeting participants outside and into the car if necessary.
Russell Davies writes in his Top Ten Tips for Presentations (via APG again) that you should get there early enough that you can rewrite the whole thing on a large piece of cardboard found in a stationary cupboard if you need to.
3) Keep your desk tidy. Its a personal bugbear of mine, I know, but if you do get run over by that bus, its no good having a brilliant electronic filing system if your desk is hidden by towering piles of paper, manky coffee cups and THAT missing report. How is anyone covering your role supposed to tell what is Important and what is recycling?
4) File your receipts and get your expenses claims in on time. You. Will. Get. Paid. Back. Faster.
Sarah Haskins’ best known rant (which I thought I’d finally figured out how to get into a post, but if its not showing below you can also view here) focuses on yogurt generally and Activia in particular:
Today I found a new offender in yogurt category communications, this time from the UK, courtesy of Muller Vitality and Joanna Lumley:
and here is the press version (as found in today’s Sunday Times), which points out that if you lead a full and varied life you need a yogurt with a difference…
I don’t know why I haven’t blogged about the brilliance of Sarah Haskins before. Her Target Women slots for infomania point out just how ridiculous brand’s attempts to communicate with their female target audience can be – and she’s right with me on topics like Activia and attitudes towards beauty:
express yourself by paralysing facial muscles in those problem areas
Over the last few years, I’ve worked on several campaigns where the objectives and/or the budgets shifted substantially between the insight and planning process and execution. In some cases, we were communicating to a different audience, or with a different message, or with a quarter of the original budget.
How can you build anticipating that kind of change into preparing a comms campaign? Or into outlining (via, of course, the medium of excel) exactly what work the agency is going to be doing for the next twelve months?
Both insightey Account Planning and the newer kid on the block Channel Planning tend to be upfront activities. You work out who you need to be talking to, what you need to have a conversation with them about and where the best places to do this would be. Then you charge into creative development, the digital guys start doing complicated things with code and media is booked. Only then will the client email to tell you that the goalposts have shifted. Rather a lot.
It’s not (normally) the client’s fault. Large (and small) organisations have to react to what the economy, their competitors and the market are doing. But pulling together a communications campaign still takes time and if client marketing budgets continue to be allocated months in advance its very tempting to write an annual marketing plan showing exactly how the budget will be spent. Except it won’t, because by month four everything will probably have changed. Which is a recipe for wasting client’s (and agencies) money.
Faris writes that you never know what you’re going to end up being famous for, but that you need to start being you – because Brand You is a highly defensible asset. He suggests you take advice from Shakespeare and to thine own self be true.
I’m not sure if Faris was ever in the country for Interestings 2007/8/9, but I’ve always been inspired by what is written above the stage at the Conway Hall venue:
Ben over at IFIABTWC has been writing about his Fantasy Agency (which he says would be called Pavement). I’m definitely with him on:
The office shuts at 6. You can work afterwards if you really want to, but that’s up to you. No one wants to stop you working hard but Pavement does not want you to feel compelled to endure a life of pointless presenteeism.
Ben’s writing from a creative point of view, so I thought I’d throw in my own Fantasy Agency List:
Agency policies to include:
- open plan is fine; packing desks in so tightly that you can’t walk between them is not
- helpfulness and tidiness are next to godliness – and more importantly, form part of your appraisal
- go to the pub after work if you like, but its not compulsory and you won’t be penalised for failing to turn up
- as Ben wrote, ‘If you need help, help will be provided’; equally if you are perfectly capable of cracking on with something you will be left alone to do so
Specifically regarding pitching:
- only for clients where the chief decision maker resides in the UK
- whose company is solvent
- and whose head office is less than four hours travelling time from the agency (three if driving)
- and have a more than adequate and confirmed marketing budget for the next 12 months
- where four or less agencies are pitching creative and/or strategy
- and a date for a final pitch decision is set in stone
- no sub-prime finance, gambling, fags or really boring b2b clients