As a freelancer, 90% of my work comes from Yorkshire agencies – and it’s a small pond up here. There are probably only eight agencies capable of handling seven figure accounts, half of whom specialise in shopper marketing and/or retail. So the big FMCG and retail clients based up here tend to split their work among them. Which means there is a heck of a lot of client overlap, client conflict and inter-agency musical desks that goes on. Most people in the Yorkshire agency scene have worked on Asda, Morrisons and/or DFS at one point or another.
The problem is when it comes to freelance support – and it works both ways. If a freelancer (creative, digital or planner) has just been working on Morrisons, then they probably shouldn’t be working on Asda. And likewise you can’t have a freelancer working on Asda simultaneously across two different agencies.
But what about when a freelancer is working on Retailer A for one agency, then gets asked to work on Different Unconnected Client B for another agency – who also work for Retailer A? Where does conflict end and simply an expectation of professional behaviour begin? As you may have guessed by now, I’ve just missed out on a long and juicy freelance planning gig because of the above example.
I honestly believe that if agencies want the best fish in a small pond, they (and possibly also their clients) will have to be a bit more flexible about who they’re swimming with. After all, if the trusted partners, agency-and-friends model is the way forward in delivering client’s needs, surely we’re allowed to share friendship groups?
It might as well be titled ‘Nearly Everything You Think You Know About Marketing Is Wrong’. It certainly doesn’t hold back from asserting that when it comes to marketing theory, we’ve all got the wrong end of the stick. To be fair, there’s some great sense-checks in there about target audience, reminding us that a small proportion of your brand’s customers will be proper brand loyalists, or will fit your carefully constructed demographic and attitudinal profile, the rest might well be buying shampoo/cola/crisps with very little consideration and even less loyalty.
But that’s my problem with the book – it works best for FMCG brands operating in a hypothetical, academic, textbook marketplace. Quite how the ‘laws’ in the book would work with my recruiting-volunteers-for-clinical-trials client from last year I’m not sure…
So I’d prefer to go with a title like ‘Some Of The Stuff You Assume About Marketing Certain Products In Particular Markets Should Maybe Be Re-evaluated’. But it’s still worth a read, especially if you have to write an effectiveness paper in the near future.
I’ve experienced the Magic Fairy Dust problem quite a few times, particularly as a freelance. You get asked to work on a project, but quickly realise that there’s no actual role for you and no real problem for you to solve – they just want some Magic Fairy Dust sprinkling on the whole thing and have come to believe that Planners possess pitch-winning, client-retaining special powers that will somehow make everything better. No pressure then.
The broader problem seems to me to be that with an Account Planner’s role being so unhelpfully titled, open to so many interpretations and properly understood by so few, it’s very hard for someone who doesn’t work regularly with Planners to understand exactly how and where we might add value. Particularly when there’s nothing to work from (research, market intelligence, competitor review, anything) and no time or budget with which to go insight hunting.
In an emergency I can post-rationalise a strategy into the finished creative if I have to or write a pitch doc in 3 hours flat but I can’t magic up slides out of nothing – real-life example: agency: “we need some more pitch slides”, me: “about what?, the client has specified the target audience, key messages, proposition, strapline and look and feel in the brief, this is practically an artwork job”, agency: “just slides, with Planning on them!”.
I’ve said before that one of the biggest challenges Planning professionals face is educating the half of our industry that doesn’t employ Planners about what we do and why we do it. Mind you, I’ve met a few agency bosses who actually do employ Planners and are still a bit hazy about what they do all day…
The lovely Andreea from LSU asked me to come down and share my thoughts with everyone on practical day-to-day stuff like building client relationships. So I did the whole talk-with-Q&A thing (without powerpoint!).
doing my thing – if I look a bit knackered, it’s because I was up at 4 to catch the London train (pic by @LSUsocial)
I think I got as much out of the day as the proper delegates did – who would turn down the opportunity to hear from effectiveness guru Andy Nairn (who managed to explain Econometrics in less than 30secs with only a flipchart), to soak up Russell Davies’ thoughts on Working with Creatives and Presentation Skills, to get the inside track on the insight process behind the new (and local to me) Trinity Leeds development from Canvas8’s Nick Morris and listen to top Planning headhunter Nick Grime’s thoughts on Career Paths for Planners.
There are plans for another 1up already in the pipeline and I’d highly recommend it for anyone in their first few years of a strategy, planning or insight career. LSU also talked about the potential for a session aimed at more senior planners and I’m already working out how to wangle a ticket for it :)
Aaaaand, as if cracking the decades-old problem of appropriate training for Planners wasn’t enough, LSU have also just published a Strategist’s Handbook, full of handy hints and charts to get your thinking started – you can buy yours here.
The last ever issue of Research magazine landed on my doormat this morning. It comes as part of my MRS membership, but will now be replaced by the Research-live website and a quarterly printed magazine that’s going to be full of big, serious thinky stuff as far as I can tell. So it probably won’t contain mid-week pick-me-ups like these cartoons from this issue’s piece on why insight doesn’t always cut through to influence strategic marketing:
There’s been a bit of a slew of negative posts from me recently, but this is an upbeat one. It’s been around for a few weeks, but the new Butlins campaign by Now is lovely, bigging up their heritage in family holidays that delight all the family and even resurrecting their original (Shakespeare inspired no less) mission statement that was literally built into Billy Butlin’s holiday camps.
It might not be the snappiest line ever, but I rather like it.
pic from here
Have you seen Ocado’s new ad? It launched a couple of weeks ago across video-on-demand, outdoor, press and digital (wot, no TV budget?) and according to the agency ‘aims to recruit new customers by creating awareness of the quality of Ocado’s products and its service’. Nice visuals, very “can we have a Honda Grrr or Innocent ad please?”, but the voiceover just has me confused:
“Welcome to Ocado.com. We’re proud to be different to other supermarkets, we don’t have any shops, so all our attention is on delivering you what we like to call our life changing service.
Enjoy the freshest groceries, biggest brands and all your home essentials. Shop online and we’ll personally pick and cheerfully deliver it straight to your kitchen table at a time that suits you.
Experience the difference for yourself and change the way you live.”
So…solely based on this can anyone explain in what way shopping with Ocado is any better to shopping with Tesco.com?
I dug around the Ocado website and compared it with Tesco’s to discover that Ocado colour code bags for fridge/freezer/cupboard, pick from a warehouse not from a store for better freshness and are very enthusiastic about delivering come-what-may, with snow tyres on all their vans. If they were going after the customers of their online grocery competitors surely they’d have been heavily pushing those benefits instead of half-heartedly mentioning just one of them.
So I have to assume that the ad is aimed at online grocery shopping newbies, which is quite a tough sell – Start ordering your groceries online! And not from the supermarket you usually visit! Which means you’d need a properly engaging, disrupting, brand-equity-building, Honda-ish piece of work. Which sadly this isn’t. Perhaps Mr Rose will help them do a better job next time?