Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A BLOGGER ON PLANNING

Any great Creative is a great planner.The most important part of a big idea is the thought behind it: a new and original way of linking that product/benefit to the audience. That's the clever bit. Obviously some Creatives do it better than others, hence the fact that not all Creatives do great work. But you'll find that those who do are insightful strategic thinkers as well as Copywriters, Art Directors or both. (I.e., Dave Droga; Leo Premutico; Ben Nott; Matthew Keon - just to name a few examples from Australia, although sadly they're all now working anywhere but Australia.)
When the process of generating great creative work is broken down into a segmented production line - and the strategic creative thought is generated by the Planning Department (often with the help of Account Service) - you'll never get the best work from a great Creative, because you're robbing them of the most important part of their job: new, original thinking. When Creatives are reduced to being just Copywriters and/or Art Directors this industry is going to lose all its great Creative thinkers - because for these people, craft will never be enough. They'll either end up finding real opportunities to use their talent overseas; or they'll leave the industry to write and direct films, write books, invent products etc - they'll continue to look for ways of integrating their passion for original creative thinking with their ability to craft and shape an idea.
So let's think about what we're doing to the role of the Creative while we're defining the role of the Planner. Because the current debate about the role of Planning in Australia suggests that it's the Planner who should come up with the 'big idea', leaving it to the Creatives to just find the execution, write the copy direct the artwork. Therefore, either our Planners need to top AWARD School; or we need to allow Creatives to develop the creative thinking that links the product/benefit to the audience and, subsequently, generate the big idea.
One effective way of working could be to have great Planners (who know the product and the audience) working collaboratively with great Creatives (who solve problems with new ideas) to find original ways of communicating the product/benefit to the audience?
Or alternatively, perhaps we should combine the two departments into a Strategic Creative Department whereby everyone's responsible for understanding the product/audience, innovative strategic thinking, great creative craftsmanship and selling the idea.
But breaking the process down into a production line of unfulfilling, non-creative pigeonholes isn't the answer. If we take the ability to think away from the Creative Department, this industry is going to continue to lose its best talent to other markets or other vocations.

30 Comments:

Blogger Captain Obvious said...

I hate Leo Premutico. He's too good.

4:52 PM  
Anonymous AL DICKMAN said...

Strategy is a creative process and often instinctive. A feeling in the gut that an idea is just right. But because clients need a little more evidence than 'gut feel' - we use Planning/research and a whole host of unique methodologies, or other bollocks to convince clients that the thinking is scientific/intellectual.
How many times has a great idea had a strategy retrofitted in order to sell the work to a client? In my experience often. If creatives don't have the brains or balls to create more compelling and powerful strategies than the number cruncher type of planner - then they deserve everything
they don't get.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In essence, the theory's bang-on. The planner/creative animal is a natural evolution for all of us, and would relegate the suits to the simple, slog end of the biz.

The problem is, in reality, there are two kinds of planners out there now. 1) The pseudo-creative, broad thinker, mumbling idiot-savant that we all love so much in the creative department and who understand the difference between a great springboard and a 25 word prop, then 2) There's the clinical, analytical, research-savvy planner that writes the clients' biz plans and props up the suits' fuzzy thinking. Alas, the latter are the ones generally paid for and valued by the clients - hence they tend to be in the majority.

6:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice theory, Mr Blogger. Congratulations on getting your earlier published contribution up as an article in its own right. But I would counter by re-telling a famous Lionel Hunt story in which he reputedly said to an account guy/planner: "If I come up with the strategy, write the ad and present it, where exactly does that leave you?"

You seem to think the day to day life of a creative even allows time to get involved in the job as far back in the process as the strategy planning, even if we wanted to.

Listen, agencies just aren't structured to get the creatives involved with the client. Often with good reason. Most creatives don't have diplomatic skills and are likely to make a mess of the meeting.

But enough of lofty principle and vague philosophy.

The truth is, agencies these days are nothing more than sausage machines, pumping out ad after ad on an assembly line which is being forced to run faster and faster with every shift.

No, planners have to take more responsibility for devising briefs, not less.

That way the sausage machine can run uninterrupted by the major inconvenience of the creatives trying to figure out what the ad should be saying to the punters, as well as finding an ingenious creative expression - not to mention then executing that idea -ie: writing and art directing to a polished standard if the idea survives the tortuous process of presentation to a nervous, conservative brand manager, marketing manager, marketing director, managing director.

So, My Gut Feeling, as you called yourself in your earlier incarnation, what say you? I rather suspect you're a planner, not a copywriter like myself.

7:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:14PM, you appear to have missed the whole point.

This person is saying that we, THE CREATIVES, should be more instrumental in coming up with the idea. That we're being robbed of the 'clever' and rewarding part of our job, as creatives - the thinking. THE IDEA.

That we're in danger of being reduced to caged animals who's sole purpose is to come up with a site gag or fart joke that fits the campaign line we've been handed. And then polish the turd until it passes, unnoticed, into the vast sea of mediocrity.

If you are an IDEAS PERSON as well as a Copywriter, then this person is championing your cause. Read it again.

11:27 PM  
Blogger claudinho said...

Imho, to way forward is to create a Strategic Creative Departament. This will only strenghten the agencies' strategic/creative thinking. And everyone will benefit.

12:19 AM  
Blogger Kirsty said...

I agree, the production line thing is crap. It's stifling - stifling personality and creativity. Nobody wants to stifle creativity and moreover, in the spirit of more, more, more, great ideas should be able to come from a creative or a planner. But the creatives who have, in my mind, with a few exceptions, come up with sensational big ideas, have a very solid understanding of either the client, product or consumer, and that is rare. They just don't have the time. So planners help with that.

I too wonder if creative teams shouldn't be made up of one planner and one creative, pick your type (in both cases)? Would be interesting to try it (over and above the odd project which has been fun).

1:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny you should mention Award School, I recently earned the nickname 'The Strategist' (before it was promptly beaten out of me) as I would get caught up in analysing and exploring propositions rather than executing the ones given - i.e. 'The World's smallest', 'The World's Toughest', 'The World's Fastest'.

As a graduate with bugger all real-world experience - I'm the first to admit I know much less about The Industry than I would like to think - but I did find it rather odd (and a bit of a shock) to learn that creatives are essentially left out of this initial process. Logically, I would have thought that you would want your lateral thinkers to be utilised at the point of assessing the problem (the brief), in order to come up with a creative solution.

Seriously considering foregoing art direction in favour of strategy..

1:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

al dickman...

What this blog is saying is that it's not that 'creatives don't have the brains or balls to create more compelling and powerful strategies than the number cruncher type of planner' it's that they just DON'T GET THE CHANCE!

How about we let our Creatives have a go at developing an idea again and we might find that they do indeed 'deserve everything they don't get'. We might also stop the best ones pissing off overseas when they realise how stifled they are here as creative thinkers.

Hence the AWARD School student (1:50AM) who is already considering NOT becoming an Art Director because, even at this early stage, s/he has realised that the rewarding part of the job - the part we were promised when we were lured into this industry - is done by another department these days.

And if this student was named the 'strategist' but also has the ability to turn that thinking into a finished idea and then craft it out the door - we're probably saying goodbye to another Droga. (Unless of course this person has the insight to take their talent overseas. And then one day we'll wish we could get him/her back to be a guest judge at AWARD.)

No, al dickman, a great Creative is capable of everything they don't get. And that's why so many leave Australia.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:14 SAID: 'Listen, agencies just aren't structured to get the creatives involved with the client. Often with good reason. Most creatives don't have diplomatic skills and are likely to make a mess of the meeting...No, planners have to take more responsibility for devising briefs, not less. That way the sausage machine can run uninterrupted by the major inconvenience of the creatives trying to figure out what the ad should be saying...'

7:14 - If you are indeed a Copywriter then you're desperately in need of: 1) the ability to comprehend what you read; 2) passion.

I'm thoroughly embarrassed by your attitude and/or lack of understanding.

From a very different kind of Copywriter.

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to know what an account planner does, or more importantly should do, visit the following website:
http://www.apg.org.uk/ (The account Planning Group) or read a book titled Truth, Lies and advertising by Jon Steele.

It's as simple as this. The world's best creatives, as in not the guys who win the most awards (Leo, Droga etc.) But the guys who create the most memorable work of all time. The work you look back on in 10 years time and are still blown away by i.e. 'Ever notice how protected you are when you make yourself small' or 'Beware of the voices' or 'Good things come to those who wait' etc. (There are some great local examples but you'd have to dig a little deeper in award annuals, as often they are not as celebrated as the cool ads.)

It pains me to read some of these comments. Guys... we're ad agencies! Successful ones work together. Clients, Creatives, Planners, Suits, together. A winning combination is all of the above being on the same page, all trying to solve a problem. Successful combinations all focus on their audience. The consumer, consumer, consumer. If any one of these people in this process doesn't, the whole thing turns to shit! (This by the way does not provide a case for research. Read a new book by Pat Fallon 'Juicing the Orange' and you'll find out why. ) On the site I mentioned above you will also be able to download a report titiled "Testing to Destruction".

BMP in london invented planning and it's no wonder they are still the best in the world at doing it. A lot of agencies have now adapted it and it's now turned into a mess. It's less focused on deliver true meaningful insights and more about writing reports and waxing lyrical about something that is really a first thought. This is when we have to be more like Lionel.

From an Art Director.

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes blogger, I agree. We either need to redefine the roles and be honest about it: i.e., the planners come up with the idea and the creatives just put an execution to it, effectively reducing them to designers or long copy writers (because the campaign line is already written in the strategy), and watch all the real creatives in our market leave. Or let the creative department do their job - which is to solve the client's problem with an idea.

And if planners or suits want that job, they too can become creatives by first going to an ideas school, then competing to get a job based on their ability to come up with an actual idea, and follow that up with several years learning the craft of bringing an idea to life. But lets not make the job of a creative less than it should be so as to pander to this new wave of bureaucracy.

We will surely loose our best talent if we do.

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The world's best creatives, as in not the guys who win the most awards (Leo, Droga etc.) But the guys who create the most memorable work of all time. The work you look back on in 10 years time and are still blown away by i.e. 'Ever notice how protected you are when you make yourself small' or 'Beware of the voices' ...

Perhaps you should have a look at who worked on the campaigns you quoted, 11:20, before casting your aspersions.

12:07 PM  
Anonymous AL DICKMAN said...

In response to 9.16am. 'What this blog is saying is that it's not that 'creatives don't have the brains or balls to create more compelling and powerful strategies than the number cruncher type of planner' it's that they just DON'T GET THE CHANCE!'
Why? What's stopping you from thinking?
Do you see yourself as a victim? I said 'brains or balls'. If you are prepared to meekly accept poor briefs, then that's your choice. The job of a creative is to question the brief, challenge assumptions. This doesn't mean throwing teddy out of the cot when you don't get your own way. You need to work with the suits/planners to convince them that you understand the business issues
facing the client - and not simply obsessed with massaging your ego at awards time. So I respectfully suggest you stop whining and do something about it. Even if it means taking a risk, which is what creativity is all about.

1:47 PM  
Anonymous my gut feeling said...

So 11:20 are you saying that it's the Planner's job to come up with the thought behind the idea and then it's the Creative's job to execute that idea - and that's how we're meant to work together? It sounds like that's what you're saying.

I became a Creative because I was inspired by ideas like: 'Ever notice how protected you are when you make yourself small', 'Beware of the voices', 'Good things come to those who wait', 'Beware of things made in October', 'News from the only region you care about. Yours' - and I thought the most important part of my job, AS A CREATIVE, would be to try and come up with ideas of that caliber - which means that strategic thinking (finding an insight that connects the product/benefit to the consumer) is a big part of my creative process in coming up with a good idea. And the most exciting part of my job.

So if you're suggesting that the entire agency team genuinely all work together to come up with an idea like that, fine. But if the notion of 'working together' is being part of a production line in the creative process whereby I'm handed a thought/idea that I'm just responsible for fleshing out, then that's NOT FINE. That's NOT what I was led to believe a career as a Creative would involve.

I'm not having a go here, I'm honestly confronted and disturbed by (what I fear is) the new definition and delineation of the role and responsibilities of the Creative. It seems to me that if you're a thinking Creative in Australia, you either need to: A) become a Creative Director so that you're allowed to have a brain; B) leave the region to work somewhere that accepts you can actually THINK of a great idea as well as executing one; C) leave the industry all together to do something more creatively stimulating; or D) FIRST TRY TO ASCERTAIN WHETHER THE PART OF THE JOB THAT DRIVES YOU, THE PART YOU BECAME A CREATIVE FOR IN THE FIRST PLACE, THE THINKING, THE IDEA, THE PART THAT MAKES YOU WANT TO BRING THE IDEA TO LIFE WITH ALL THE PASSION AND CRAFT THAT YOU POSESS - WHETHER THAT PART IS NOW SOMEONE ELSE'S JOB? AND IF THAT'S THE CASE, THEN CONSIDER OPTIONS A,B & C.

If we're talking about a round-table to develop the thought/idea, that's one thing. But if 'being part of a team' to develop the idea actually means sitting in a delineated pigeon hole which, as a Creative, excludes you from the 'thinking' - THE IDEA - then we need to have an honest discussion about this as a industry. Because if that's the case Creatives need to know so they can assess whether or not they actually want to continue being Creatives.

All my best work, the work that has sold products, started conversations, won awards, and driven me to want to continue being a Creative - they've all had good thoughts at their core. Good, strong, strategic insights that WERE THE IDEA. And the most rewarding part of my job was coming up with those ideas. However, lately it feels like I've been encouraged to stop thinking. To just execute. Because the idea is coming from elsewhere. And if this is the state of things, if this is where the job description of a Creative is heading - we need to know.

There seems to be a lot of talk at the moment about what the role of Planning is; but there's a distinct lack of talk about what the role of Creative isn't. And one is directly affecting the other.

This is not a challenge to Planners and it's not an attempt to just have an opinion about something on a blog. I have no desire for either. This is a real concern and a real question.

Whose job is it to come up with the idea these days? And if it's truly a team effort (which I personally believe it can be) then how are we going to properly facilitate that effort? Because at the moment it just seems like the role of the Creative is becoming less about creative intelligence and more about execution.

2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

al dickman...Again, you've entirely missed the point.

This issue has nothing to do with creatives having the 'brains or balls' to 'challenge poor briefs'. And subsequently the whole notion of creatives 'having to work with the suits/planners to convince them that (they) understand the business issues facing the client' is equally redundant - because we're not talking about the brief. We're talking about the creative solution. The idea. And the notion of being handed a brief with an idea already written on it.

It's about defining where the planner's job ends and the creative's job starts - and working out how to facilitate the process so that creatives still get to do what they got in the business to do in the first place. Solve the client’s problem with a great strategic creative idea.

But you're right about one thing; we should do something about it. And it seems to me that whoever wrote this blog has taken the first step. We're TALKING about it. If planners harbor the secret intention of becoming the idea originators, they're going to have to come out and say it, because hopefully now more creatives will be aware of the shifting sands.

(By way, can we assume you're a planner?)

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like porn.

6:34 PM  
Anonymous AL DICKMAN said...

Anonymous 6.20pm said: '...creatives still get to do what they got in the business to do in the first place. Solve the client’s problem with a great strategic creative idea.'
Please tell me you are kidding. Most creatives haven't a clue about strategy, let alone enter the business to create 'great strategic ideas'. Creative people tend to be selfish, caring more about their book/reel than the sucess or otherwise of the clients business. Hardly surprising when the industry rewards award winning creatives, rather than business thinkers. I believe strategy is the most critical part of the creative process. If creatives aren't involved in the creation of the strategy then I suggest it is their fault. Why? Well if the agency management doesn't rate the thinking of the creative department, what does that say about the ability of the supposed creative thinkers in that agency?
If creatives are being excluded from the strategic process, (when they have the potential to be the most inspiring strategists) you have to ask why.
If we were honest with each other, we'd accept that creatives are frequently seen as mavericks. Capable of coming up with outrageous ideas, but lack an understanding of business. Perhaps the obsession with awards holds us back?
Am I a planner? Does it really matter? For the record my background is Creative Director in the UK, currently working as a freelance creative out of thepond.co.nz

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

... For the record my background is Creative Director in the UK, currently working as a freelance creative out of thepond.co.nz

It's true. He is!

http://www.thepond.co.nz/al.html

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Al, you're pretty bang on.

The point is that most creatives are never given the opportunity, nor I'm guessing would they want to, spend time with clients trying to work out what their marketing proposition/business issues are.

That's not what we do.

That's what planners do. Whether they do that well or not is of course another issue.

What we do is convert that insight into an advertising idea.

It's like the difference between a lawyer and a barrister. The planner is the lawyer, gathering the information and briefing the barrister.

The barrister then persuades the jury (the consumers) of the merits of the client's case.

We are merely the barristers. The advocates who present the most persuasive case on behalf of the client. Of course we have a vast array of tools at our disposal. Not mere words and theatre.

I think it's enormously presumptuous and arrogant to suggest that creatives can, or even SHOULD, develop the strategy. That's what planners are supposed to do.

Certainly that's the way it worked at all the best agencies I ever worked for, such as The Campaign Palace and Saatchi & Saatchi in both the UK and Australia.

Which brings me back to the anecdote I wrote about Lionel Hunt earlier on this blog.

If we creatives devise the strategy AND create the ads, what exactly does that leave the planners - who are still ubiquitous in all agencies of substance - to do?

Perhaps the discussion should be about the STANDARD of planning and planners in this country.

I must say, as much fun as some of them were, it's been many a year since I worked with one who really impressed me.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God this is depressing. Even a CD seems to think that creatives are self-centered, immature idiots who are not to be trusted with a client, or capable of a strategic idea.

Thanks for being honest, but it's not very reassuring.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11.20 So much passion yet such stupidity.
reread your own point.

Who created the "Beware of the voice"s campaign?

7:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems like you all need an editor, not a planner.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Throw another planner in the works.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you can come up with good strategic ideas, craft them into award-winning ads that will move product, then sell them, you'll inevitably become a great CD.

After a whole career of being told to get back in your box because art directors, copywriters and planners all have separate roles and responsibilities; one day you'll be a copywriter, art director, planner and manager!

So you can rest assured in the knowledge that first we reject those who are different; then we promote them.

2:07, hang in there for option A.

10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:59, it must be a shock to come across an actual discussion on this website.

You're obviously more comfortable with the cheap, monosyllabic vitriol which is more typical of the contributors to this blog.

So why not return to that after you've finished wristing up your writer's ideas?

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:14. Seems like you're the one with the busy wrist.

2:18 PM  
Blogger rennalp said...

Anonymous said "What?"

9:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11.20 here... Yes Droga was CD on the campaign (at Saatchis). But... the Guys who wrote the campaign (Nik & Gavin) were made CD's at Publicis in London by Droga following the success of that and other work they did. I'm pretty sure they were able to come up with their own campaign line as they were before Droga actually got to Saatchis. If you guys are senior creatives and have your Creative Directors write your endlines then there is a real problem...

4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed 4:24 PM.

And "If we take the ability to think away from the Creative Department, this industry is going to continue to lose its best talent to other markets or other vocations."

5:11 PM  

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