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Back in the Mad Men days when David Ogilvy and Marion Harper were roaming the halls amidst the think Pall Mall smoke, whenever someone needed data, the research department was called in. Research was important. The quants were the drivers of insight back in the 50s — when American Demographic began publishing (I think).
Today there is nary a research department to be found. It’s the planning dept; either account or brand. Insights are the purview of today’s planning dept. BUT…
A number of marketing plans I have written for clients recently have included a line item for the hiring of a data analyst. Or a half of a data analyst. I was reading a story in the NYT today of missing black men, in the 25-54 demographic, and it dawned on me that data analysts are really needed at ad agencies. When I speak to heads of planning — at BBH and the like — they are interested in “quants” and data analysis, but it is not a core need. Maybe, when they’re working in digital it gains importance. But the top people are not jockeying numbers as a day job. (And they shouldn’t.) They should however, dial up their reliance on data analysts. And prep them with insights. It is an important component (pronounced COM-ponent) of today’s advertising. Use data to think like an ad guy.
As Mad Men leaves us, perhaps the research dept. of yore will make a comeback. Peace.
Tags: "david ogilvy", Account Planning, American demographic magazine, bbh, Brand Planning, mad men, marion harper, missing black men, new york times, new York times upshot, Pall mall, quants in advertising, whats the idea, whatstheidea
So you are a bar tender and you make a good living. The boss comes in and tells you she’s hiring a new person to help you. That person won’t serve drinks but may take a tip or two. That person is there to inspire you. Make you faster and a more creative, loveable bartender. That’s an analog for what an account planner is to some creative people. A helper. A fixer.
If you read comments on Agency Spy, not a place for an uplifting pulse on the industry by the way, you’ll see the derision some creative people reserve for planners. But if you go to a planner event, as I did this week, and hang, you’ll appreciate a love and community you won’t find in many industries. Brand planning has its polar moments. Somewhere in the middle is the truth.
The best planners care only about the work. That’s their reason for being. But they also know the best work sells product. Awards are nice, sales nicer. Planners get out of the building as is were, while don’t always. Their fumes are creative, not consumer.
It is the brand planner’s job to excite and inspire great strategic work. Then get out of the way. Who decides the work is great enough to be sold (be it ads, digital, apps) is up to management. If the brief and the work are in harmony, sell it. If not, you may still choose to sell it, with an asterisk. The tension can be good. The harmony better.
Insights, surrounded by stories, translated by artists, is and always will be the business of advertising. Peace.
Tags: Account Planning, agencyspy, Brand Planning, creative and account planner. Why do creative and account planners fight, creative people, whats the idea, whatstheidea
I wrote Friday that dispassionate brand planners are the ones apt to find the cookies. This, because they don’t enter into research with preconceived attitudes.
Brand and account planners do, however, need to care about passions – the passions of consumers. Passions are where emotions lie. If great advertising is about making people “feel something then do something” it’s important to know about the target gets emotional. Me, I prefer positive emotions. There’s too much “H” word out there. But finding an emotion and pushing that button is only a start. Understanding how that emotion translates into your product or product category is how you need to finish. Levi’s “Go Forth” idea, created by Wieden+Kennedy, has ballast because Levi’s jeans are durable, Americana, rootsy, and hard-ass (pun). Rivetingly so.
Planner, check your passions at the door and dive into the passions of your custies. It will help you love what you do and be much better at it. Peace!
Tags: Account Planning, brand planning tops, dispassionate insight, levi’s, new yorker, NYC healthcare, Passion in brand planning, whats the idea, whatstheidea, wieden+kennedy
I posted a question in the Account Planners Group on Linked in about a week ago, asking the question “Is strategy fluid.” It’s a “How long is a piece of string?” type question as far as most were concerned, but many favored flexibility and a strategy that moved with the times. My point was brand strategy, rather than say marketing or communications strategy, should not change. At least not until proven flawed – or the product starts to tank.
Brand strategy can’t directly be measured by sales. The traits associated with a brand strategy can be measured, however, and they can be tied to sales.
In the 90s, AT&T Business Communications Services could predict sales and market share growth by measuring three attitude traits in the market. At certain attitude levels, the money flowed. TV GRPs against three messaging areas were dialed up and down to maintain growth. As competitors made inroads against certain traits, we had to readjust the spigot. (A fluid metaphor.)
During this period the campaigns could change but not the key traits, or as I like to call them the brand planks. Static, scientific brand strategy. Fluid meting of the message and voice. Happy Memorial Day weekend! Peace be with you.
Tags: account planners group, Account Planning, at&t, AT&T business communications services, brand planks, Fluid strategy, linked in, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Henning Mankell, one of my new favorite writers, wrote an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times yesterday (12/11/11) discussing how, thanks to the storytelling culture he’s experienced by having a second home in Africa, he’s learned how to truly listen. Google it, it’s a worthwhile read.
An interesting point he makes is that people confuse information with knowledge. Information, he reasons, is just content. Knowledge is something smart learned form that content…and hopefully applied.
Brand and strategic planners who write a lot about “storytelling” these days — it’s quite the topical marketing concept — would do well in their brief writing to recognize the difference between content and knowledge. I was once scolded in anthropology class at Rollins College for doing otherwise (Oh, the scars) but in brand planning it’s important.
Farrah Bostic, a smart planner, did a nice piece entitled “There are no such things as insights” which I would recommend. Her point is not dissimilar to Mankel’s. But I interpret it a bit differently. My view is that every good story has a moral. It’s the center of gravity of the story – its reason for being. Every good brief should also have a moral. Let’s start adding one extra line to our brand and creative briefs: “What is the moral of this story?”
If Ms. Bostic’s point is that insights are content, and storytelling is knowledge applied, I agree. The moral takes the idea one step farther though. Content drives insights which create knowledge. The application of that knowledge through story creates a moral. And a moral at the end of the story is a nice bow on the package. A bow that, well-wrapped, moves consumes closer to a sale. As my Norwegian aunt might have said “Tink about it.” Peace
Tags: Account Planning, Brand Planning, Farrah bostic, good brief, henning mankell, norwegian aunt, Rolling college, the new york times, whats the idea, whatstheidea, What’s the idea?, “There are no such thing as insights”
There’s a nice threaded conversation on LinkedIn started by a recent college grad asking for good books on account planning. (Account planning is market and consumer research packaged in a way that helps creative people develop ads and such.) Most every book on account planning favors strategy that breaks from the norm. If your strategy challenges the category norm, while offering a special consumer connection to your brand, it is a great starting point for the work.
On the creative side of the business, there is a similar point of view. Well-respected creative directors often say great creative makes clients feel a bit uncomfortable; it needs to in order to break from the commonplace. There’s a bi-polar thing going on with great creative that attracts and repels clients as they judge it. If the work disrupts, is unexpected or simply startles (“Hail to the V”, for instance) it gets seen, processed and acted upon.
Back to strategy. Many of my best brand strategies contain a word that makes clients uncomfortable. They get the idea, they know its meaning and expected effect, but they often ask “Do we have to use that word?” My answer is always no. It’s a strategy, not a tagline. It’s an idea to have an idea. But then I know I’ve got them. A great brand strategy hits a client right between the eyes. A leg starts to tap. The eyes dart. The breath quickens. All because of the possibilities. The different between presenting strategy and creative is huge. Present creative and the client’s mind is on yes or no. Present strategy the clients mind is on the future. Big diff. I love my job! Peace.
Tags: Account Planning, bi-polar, Brand Strategy, consumer research, creative, hail to the v, linkedin, presenting creative, Presenting strategy, whats the idea, whatstheidea
One of the fastest growing titles in marketing is “digital strategist.” Everyone wants them. Question is: How do you find them, what are the qualities for judging them, and once you find one what do you do with her/him? (Read the specs on these job descriptions some time.)
A friend runs a very nice web design and development company in NYC. One day we were meeting (okay, drinking beer) and he told me “I’m working on the strategy for Stella Artois.” The brand planner in me wondered what a web guy was doing working on the strategy. Asked to clarify, he said on I’m working on the web strategy.
I’ve long advocated “there’s only one strategy” and many ways to express it – called tactics — but that’s just me. I suspect companies are burning lots of calories hiring digital strategists because someone needs to manage all the social media managers. Hee hee.
So here’s the fast take: Fifteen years ago brand and account planning grew out of the need to unify advertising, promotion and direct marketing. PR should have been in the fold but wasn’t. And now with the algorithm, dashboards and web nerds commanding serious budgets – and Radian6 and Google giggling all the way to the bank — the demand for digital strategists is taking off. Band-Aid. Brands need one brand strategy. One brand architecture. And smart groups of people to bring it to life. As the family is gets bigger, parenting becomes more important. Peace!
Tags: Account Planning, Advertising, Band-Aid, Brand Strategy, digital strategist, direct marketing, PR, promotion, stella artois, web design, web strategy, whats the idea, whatstheidea
I was interviewed yesterday by a Florida State (How ‘bout them Noles?) student who offered up a battery of questions on account planning. My patented answer, a quote stolen from and always attributed to Sergio Zyman, is to create strategies that help “sell more stuff to more people more times at higher prices.” Then I added a little sumin’ about organizing the selling principles so that the brand is actually managed and consumers can play back the salient value.
And today it snowed. And the snow, always beautiful, reminded me how I love ski vacations which before family and kids were why I worked 50 weeks a year. And this thought brought me to the insight that I love ski vacations because they are always different. Which brings me back to account planning and why I like it so. Sorry FSU, forgot to mention this.
Good account planners have to look at products, competition, targets and markets with a fresh eye every day. We’re constantly seeking the next contributing insight. We question everything. Look for patterns and look for breaks in the patterns. I like to say I can find a marketing insight looking through the window of a parked car. Knowledge is everywhere. That’s why I like account planning. Freshies. Just like white, beautiful, cleansing snow. Peace!
Tags: Account Planning, florida state university, freshies, Seminoles, sergio zyman, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Earnings reports hit yesterday for Apple and Yahoo and followers were, respectively, happy and disappointed. Apple is really kicking it selling phones, computers and tablets (What else is there, food?) Yahoo is sliding along, selling ads and content. Its revenue was up, but net revenue – revenue after it shares da monies with partners – down.
Carol Bartz, about whom I’ve written some good things, is at that place in time in her tenure as CEO where her performance and the company’s momentum should just about be judged. If not now, certainly in a quarter or two. So let’s table that for the moment.
What Yahoo Should Do.
If Apple is doing so well and Yahoo just gliding via cost-cutting and reorganizations then perhaps Yahoo should take a good close look at Apple custies (that’s bond trader for customers). The account planners at Yahoo’s agency Goodby Berlin and Partners might want to follow around Apple users for a week or so and see what kind of 1s and 0s are passing over their phones, Macs and tablets. Do Apple users intersect with Yahoo at all during the course of the day? And if not, why not? Apple users are worth studying.
Yahoo and Aol (not Apple) are competitors… both fighting for the same cheese. They share the same content strategy so I enjoy studying them. It’s still neck and neck, with a slight edge to Aol. But both need an idea. A powerful brand idea, dripping with beyond-the-dashboard consumer value. I’m waiting. Peace!
Tags: Account Planning, AOL, apple, Carol Bartz, goodby berlin and partners, ipad, iphone, mac, whats the idea, whatstheidea, yahoo
On my twitter account it says I am a “leaver of crumbs.” Crumbs, pieces of the whole, are what you find on the kitchen floor after leaving the kids home for the 4th of July weekend. Crumbs are not edible and, frankly, quite messy and undesirable. In the story of Hansel and Gretel, they were left in order to lead the way home. In account planning crumbs are good.
Good account planners leave crumbs via the creative brief. Good crumbs inspire excitable, nimble minds to deliver stories, ideas and art that turn consumers into, well, consumers. Today, there’s too much consuming of content and not enough consuming of product, but that’s a story for another day. A good brief leads the creative team to an idea without giving them the idea. If you give the team the idea, they feel cheated and are not likely to use it. Of course, if you give them the idea using different words and images – and it’s worthy – it will register. This is where crumbs lead to success.
Account planners who have fed the big idea know it. There is a synchronicity between the paper (brief) and the idea. A kinship…a familial relationship. The crumb bond between an account planner and creative team is special. This ain’t old school shizz either, this bond is as important between digital creatives and planners as it is in traditional. Perhaps more so, since there are so many factors involved in creating a digital selling experience. Sadly though, many digital strategists tend to be more architect than inspirer. Blueprint creator not crumb relater. Hot Peace!
Tags: Account Planning, creative teams, crumb bond, digital strategist, twitter, whats the idea, whatstheidea