Posts tagged ‘Jon Steel’
In the February issue of Admap (thanks to the APG for sending me a copy), Jon Steel writes about how great planning is not about being a member of the coolerati, an expert on Japanese animation, a fan of post-modernism or being smarter than everyone else.
He says that ‘great planning is about creating an environment in which other people are more likely to come up with good ideas, and in which clients will be more favourably disposed to running the best of them’.
He also suggests that the most reliable indicator of doing a good job as a planner is the number of people – creatives and clients alike – who seek your opinion. Because if they do seek your opinion, then you know that you are helping.
Halleluiah. Just add account handlers to the list of seekers-of-opinions and Jon and I are in total agreement.
The only thing is…this does sit slightly at odds with Jon’s speech at the JWT ‘Planning begins at 40’ event 18 months ago about how Planning had lost its place, was suffering from an erosion of rigour and had got too keen on hanging out with the creative department.
So what makes a great planner? A rigorous, data centric approach? A common sense ideas facilitator and simplifier? Or perhaps a bit of both?
Watching the videos from JWT’s ‘Planning Begins at 40’ event, I was particularly struck by Jon Steel’s speech – and crucially his delivery – which made it clear that he fears that Planning has lost its place, is suffering from an erosion of rigour and unless we spend all our time ‘wading through Nielsen reports and talking to beer drinkers in Leeds’ (his words, not mine), we have missed the mark.
I’m all for Planning ‘to help clients once more to set the right objectives…not just for communications, but for brands and for businesses’ as he puts it, but I think there’s also a role for us at a more basic day to day level in helping to clarify, consolidate and communicate great ideas and great work in a way which our clients are comfortable with and with which they can present onwards and upwards. Our ability to summarise and simplify campaign thinking (sometimes into just one chart) adds instant value. It might a be a quick fix and is not exactly top level strategic advice, but no-one in an agency has a more appropriate skill set and overview to do it than the Planner(s).
Just like there are lots of different kinds of Creatives and lots of different ways in which they contribute to building brands (the POS specialist vs. the ‘we only work on TV’ teams, juniors vs. heavyweights, in agencies large and small), I believe that there are roles for all kinds of Planners and within their very varied roles there is the opportunity to contribute to both the most fundamental top level strategic decisions and to add real value to day to day work by virtue of having both an overview of the client/market/consumer and crucially, thinking time. Maybe the second way is what John Grant would call ‘Fast Strategy’, but with X number of clients and Y number of Planners in an agency, the sums do sometimes add up.
Jon Steel also seemed to be very dismissive of the interest among blogging Planner’s in being ‘Interesting’, which I think is one of the most valuable things a Planner can offer as part of their toolkit. He’s written some brilliant books and his track record in Planning speaks for itself, but on this occasion I have to politely disagree with at least some of what he said.
The book and Jon’s talk were slightly skewed towards WPP-style international agency networks and their clients (‘first fly your global pitch team to one location’ and ‘as you’ll have several months to work on the pitch’ being among the classics in the book) but Jon was warmly received and made some very sensible points:
1) Dump the Blackberry. Apparently your IQ drops ten points when you’re constantly being interrupted by calls and emails. Jon also pointed out that the subconscious mind is better at processing data than the conscious mind, so you need to stop work and go and do something else for a bit to let your brain get on with it.
2) Bin PowerPoint. Or at the very least just include a few key images and statements on very clean slides – put all the detail in the leave behind.
3) When in doubt, leave it out. An image tells a thousand charts. Just because you’ve done half a dozen focus groups and commissioned some Quant to boot, it doesn’t mean that you have to report it all in detail. Insights only.
Of course, in a perfect world we wouldn’t ever have to go through pitches – clients choosing agencies on the basis of their reputation, work for existing clients and chemistry with the account team. But maybe its only the frantic environment of a pitch that produces the kind of breakthrough thinking that clients are looking for?
By the way – Hello to anyone who was there and I didn’t say hi to – for example I’ve no idea what Beeker looks like. Perhaps we should have had badges with name, agency and blog on to make things easier.
I’ve finally got my hands on Jon Steel’s new book Perfect Pitch
(the new business guys had been hogging the agency copy). I’ve only had chance to get through the first couple of chapters so far, but I’m so fired up.
Jon also wrote the modern Planner’s bible Truth, Lies and Advertising, which I’ve gone back to so often I can quote huge chunks verbatim.
Jon will be talking through some of the key points from Perfect Pitch at an Account Planning Group event on Tuesday 16th January – is anyone else going?
I just checked the APG’s website and the venue for Jon’s talk has moved.