By Janaina Scalise   Advertising is full of quotes about ‘breaking the rules’, ‘thinking outside the box’ and ‘being innovative’. Our i...

It's time to modernise planning, but are planners capable of breaking their own rules ?

By Janaina Scalise 
 Advertising is full of quotes about ‘breaking the rules’, ‘thinking outside the box’ and ‘being innovative’. Our industry, however, struggles to actually apply this thinking. It’s a behaviour that needs to change.
Planners from all over the world have been discussing the same things for years, but only a few have really broken the rules in regards to:
-      Creative Briefs Templates
-      Briefing Sessions
-      Comms Planning Framework
-      Process
-      Clarity on roles & responsibilities
-      Presentations
-      Reporting
-      The planning function
-      The role of traditional research
-      The effectiveness of social media metrics
…and the list goes on.
Imagine if more planners were willing to break the rules when it came to process. Imagine if more rules were broken in regards to diversity – how many of us have actually hired someone with a less privileged background, or someone that has been in prison but would like a chance to start again. I see agencies and planners sharing a hundred different thoughts, but I don’t see actions. Job titles, functions, our intellectual backgrounds – these processes are so deeply ingrained in advertising culture that it’s hard to see the light end of the tunnel.
An industry that claims to understand human behaviour seems to be incapable of understanding and changing their own. How contradictory.
Imagine if planners focussed less on how smart they were and more on the importance of changing the way we work.
Admit it. Chances are you’re no smarter than anyone else – you’re just well-considered, probably with an interest in culture, psychology, trust your gut instinct. But we can’t achieve the best possible outcomes if there isn’t input from a diverse range others. No one can.
Why do only creatives work in teams? Surely examples like this are enough for us to acknowledge the importance of collaborative culture.
Creative ideas come to life with the help of an art director, a copywriter, a designer, an editor, a Creative Director, etc, etc. Why then, should an entire strategy come from just one person? How can strategists come up with innovative insights while sat on their own putting a presentation together? Creatives know that their work requires many brainstorm sessions, time (quite a lot of it), and people who are happy to help them out at every step of the process. Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with that. But have one little thing to add.
Agencies should function as one big team, helping each other regardless of job title. Accounts, media, community managers, strategists, designers – everyone would benefit from true collaboration. After all, we’re all responsible for achieving something truly great and remarkable. We all make the credits list, right?
In a world full of strategists with all sort of different skills, it has become harder and harder to achieve the best results if only one strategist is responsible for the entire strategy. One strategist alone won’t:
-      Identify the business problem
-      Do all the research
-      Analyse data
-      Write an inspiring creative brief
-      Have enough expertise to help a creative team build on the idea, making it truly relevant to consumers
-      Be tactical to discuss what is possible, what isn’t, where and how ideas should be executed
-      Have great media knowledge
-      Have understanding of the online community
-      Be as good as community managers
-      Write an action brief
-      Make sure comms strategy is in place
-      Have a killer understanding of KPIs, reporting, metrics, measurement tools
…and the list goes on.
I can wear some hats, but not a hundred. No one can.
Perhaps at bigger agencies you have people to do each of the tasks listed above, but most smaller agencies doesn’t have that luxury. Even if we did, true collaboration would still be key.
And that’s why at Gravity Thinking, the more we analyse the different hats a strategist is expected to wear, the more we realise the importance of REALLY breaking the rules and changing the way planners work. We are taking action, ACTION. We are in favour of planners working in pairs or even on what we have coined a ‘cabal’; a small team made up of strategists, creatives and community managers responsible for a smooth process. It’s a way of working wherein we have more knowledge from the start and less layers of bureaucracy, ego or traditions that prevent the creative process from being truly effective and nimble.
Since we implemented the ‘cabals’, we’ve seen some amazing results, some of which you can see here. Most of the work was completed thanks to tremendous collaboration from everyone in the cabal team. For example, I’ve recently worked side by side with our designer, Joana Couto, to figure out the best way to approach a UX task since it’s not my field of expertise. The brief was completed in less than 30 minutes and was exactly what Jo needed. From the moment she realised she could really count on me, even if that meant bouncing simple ideas off each other, the work was done very quickly. It was a smooth and enjoyable process, plus I learned some new skills from her.
Why don’t you give it a go?
On the 20th of September, I went to an APG talk called “Think Like a CSO” and the guests were Charlie, Chief Strategy Officer and Anna, Head of Strategy, at MullenLowe. I’m so pleased to have attended because they discussed their agency process and their belief in pairing planners to get better briefs and as a result, more creative and effective ideas. Anna said that this new way of working has already proven to be successful, as they have been seeing bigger and braver ideas that can morph into different shapes and spaces – needed today! They too believe that Planning, as a function, still suffers a bit of a hangover from how planners used to be “A bit too slow. A bit too intellectual. More interested in strategy than creative zest”.
MullenLowe, we are with you on this one. ACTUALLY breaking the rules and challenging an industry that are otherwise ignoring their own needs.

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