Posts tagged ‘change’
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.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how agencies are organised and subsequently reorganised recently and about how their systems work (or in some cases, don’t).
Looking back at the agencies I’ve worked for, I’ve seen a LOT of different approaches to the organising and running of an Integrated Northern Marketing Agency and none of them were perfect. The one thing all of these agencies did have in common was that they changed their minds about the Right Way To Do It fairly frequently.
From the point of view of someone who has never been privy to agency board meetings, management accounts and the like, it has been very easy to view yet another reshuffle and/or rebranding as about as likely to be effective as rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic. In fact, given that both my previous employers went bust after I left them, perhaps that was closer to the truth than I realised at the time…
But organisations can’t stay still, they must move forward – or else slip backwards. One of the pioneers of modern Social Psychology Kurt Lewin had a three stage theory of change – Unfreeze, Change, (Re)Freeze. In simple terms, this was all about getting an organisation prepared for change and wanting to make the change, leaping into the Great Unknown, then establishing stability once the change had been made.
But this rather implies that Change is a starting-and-stopping kind of thing. Whereas these days Change can be more like a constant state of flux. Clients change their ways of working (shifts from pitches to tenders and fees to projects for example); technology advances; the economy tanks. The environment has changed and so the organisation must change to accommodate (and ideally anticipate) it.
So agencies tend to operate in a near-constant state of Flux. In the last ten years, I’ve only worked for three agencies, but have got through fourteen desks, six brands, nine reorganisations and ten rounds of redundancies.
Perhaps the agency model is going to have to become something more fluid and more adaptive to constant change. Desks, organisation structures, salaried jobs and prescriptive agency brandings don’t really fit with the demands of constant flux. There has to be a better way. Perhaps we need to look at organisational structures that embrace change itself?
Noisy Decent Graphics is hosting a series of expert guest posts on how design agencies should deal with the recession.
While I’m not pretending to have a similar solution for Planners, there are clearly some major challenges we are already having to navigate our way round:
- any data more than a week old is now questionable in view of the speed of financial change going on and it’s impact on attitudes and behaviour. So TGI, last year’s U&A and the qual from September need to be treated with caution
- but there isn’t a lot of spare cash sloshing about to spend on fresh insight
- and we’re going to have to work harder than ever to justify both the value we add to the agency and the Planning fees we charge to clients
Which might mean that any Planner with a good understanding of basic psychology is going to be most adaptable to the new status quo. (OK, all Planners should ideally already possess this, but let’s be realistic.) In the absence of reliable data, understanding the impact of mental processes on behaviour has got to be a good place to start from.
Time to dig out the old text books then.
People are a bit like swans. However calm and organised we may appear to be on the surface, beneath the water we are paddling like mad to stay afloat and in the right direction as we lurch from crisis to crisis.
Which is a bit like companies (and therefore their brands) really. Everything might seem ordered, logical, thought out and considered, but the likelihood is that that incisive strategy was scrawled on the back of a fag packet at midnight when the latest product recall/environmental disaster/lawsuit hit the company.
Which is why all our fancy three year marketing plans are a bit pointless really as the only thing certain is that change will happen.
I’m a PC girl through and through (I could never warm to a machine that makes you ask for your disk back, no matter how sexy the design) but the get a mac ads have got me wondering for the first time whether I made the right decision in upgrading to a shiny new PC.
Apple have apparently been running these ads in the states for a few months but they’re just breaking over here. They make choosing a mac the cool, sensible, rational, practical but still slightly subversive and creative thing to do.
Effectively, the ads promise a machine that can run windows, msoffice, itunes, imovie, iphoto etc AND never crash or get a virus. Sounds like an ideal world, so why haven’t companies switched over? I guess change can be scary.