The results of the latest assignment from A[P]SOTW – or the Advertising [Planning] School On The Web – are in.

This initiative is run by a team of senior planners from across the world. They post challenges for up-and-coming planners and marketers – or, in fact, anyone with an interest in smart ideas and communications – and have the entries judged by a heavyweight group of marketers and strategy experts. Warc teamed up with the School a few months ago to promote the latest challenge on SoBe V Water.

You can read full feedback from the judges on Andrew Hovells' blog here, here and here.

Below are the decks from joint winners Samara and Tiffany, plus some general feedback. Congratulations to both of them, and to the judges for another excellent assignment.


Samara works for DigitasLBi as an Junior Creative Strategist. Find her on LinkedIn.

Download Samara's deck.

Judges' feedback

This was interesting. Great that you had insights that were simple and supported. Great you challenged the convention of this all being about just health, perhaps too many entries were like kids playing soccer, just all chasing the same ball. I liked that you had a clear strategy.

Great that you built your planning from a product truth, without it being dull, that you gave it context. And while trial is not exactly a new task for a drinks communications campaign, I'm glad it was clear.

I engaged with the pen portrait and really got the insight. It's dead simple but also true that the story of an object directly dictates our experience of it.

Perhaps the idea went a little far, perhaps it's a little conventional to have 'from deepest Peru or whatever' but it was still a plan I think that would get people to appraise/re-appraise the brand and product.

I thought you did a great job of creating a plan that addressed specific tasks. I just wish you hadn't made changing the packaging part of it. It costs the earth, probably the entire budget. I thought you missed a trick with the daily routines thing, that might have been a bigger thought. And maybe it's a little bitty, for a penetration job, I wondered if you needed something simpler and more scaleable.

Rob said:

"I like that they went beyond 'health' and into taste. That's interesting.

I also like that they had a POV in there that took that 'taste' proposition and gave it meaning.

Maybe they went a bit overboard with the 'geography/origination' element of their idea … because I think there's something in simply attacking the brands that say their from 'a mountain in the deepest part of the Congo, when really they're bottled in Slough … but I'll let them go with it"


Tiffany works for DigitasLBi as an Associate Brand Strategist. Find her on LinkedIn here.

Download Tiffany's deck.

Judges' feedback

Apart from Samara, it was only yourself who didn't play around with conventional variations of health. You did something different, that might cut through, that might work.

I love the simple analysis of the problem and the very commercial reality of the limits of distribution alone. In FMCG, one the darkest secrets about 'role for comms' is being seen to promote the brand to secure shelf space.

Few focused on the simple fact that SoBe actually tastes better than the alternatives.

So obviously, the objective is encouraging trial.

I really loved the tension in your insight work of healthy but not the extremes.

And the analysis of how taste works was probably the best single piece of work anyone did in this project. I'll thieve that myself.

If only after that you hadn't diluted all that momentum with much less interesting proposition. I thought you were carving clear water between this brand and everyone else, but 'living well never tasted so good' just seemed a but same old same old. And the imagery next to it seemed very, well Danone .

It's a double shame, because I thought your delivery in this deck was ace. Great pace, great writing, great design.

I didn't really want a proposition, more a great communications task that would bring your clear opportunity to life. That tension between pain and pleasure was interesting and I did wonder if the role for comms was credibly demonstrating the experience in a way that shows you understand and admire your audience. Perhaps showing at moments when 'I know I should but I have a life to live', or literally turning moments of everyday pain into pleasure.

So I felt just a little let down by the plan too, which felt a little like a sexier version of sampling campaign trying to deliver a little more scale. You were the only person who actually bothered to look at the target's media habits, so well played, but I wanted to seem something that added scale and get the audience talking, as you show they are heavily into social.

General feedback from Andrew Hovells

There's nothing wrong with resisting a framework or strategy template, in fact, there's too much process in this business, allowing too many to hide from proper thinking. However, I was surprised at how little folks overtly followed the 'issue, insight, idea, implementation' structure. I was looking for strong arguments and support of course, but even where people followed the structure, there wasn't enough boiling down into a few rich hooks to hang your thinking.

A piece of advice. Write the last slide first, then the first one and finally, THE key slide in the middle that captures the moment of revelation in your presentation. Then populate the links as succinctly as possible.

Also, there was some great thinking and some good points of view, but there seemed to be lots of subjectivity and less simple factual support. It's hard of course doing this for a UK brand if you're not from here, but nevertheless.

Rob said:

"A client isn't going to necessarily respond favourably to (a point of view) if you haven't got a broader understanding of both the market, the competition and the audience … otherwise they just think you're either kissing their ass or kicking it.

For me, being subjective only works if you have some data/experience/insight that allows you to frame your opinion from a much more objective point of view … something that either helps frame the real problem they're facing or can liberate some commercially valuable solution. Easier said than done, but it's part of the reason we get paid"

I also felt on a number of occasions that folks were looking for brand problems to solve, rather than core issues that were getting in the way of growth. Sometimes that is brand of course, but you need to really spell out WHY.

A couple of people clearly identified a clear issue comms was going to solve, but not everybody. I often think this is the heart of comms planning: if you can get a clear problem for everyone to have a go at, you're most of the way there.

Rob said:

"Sure things like 'branding inconsistency' and 'distribution' are major factors that need to be brought out, discussed and dealt with … but they rarely capture the core issue a brand needs to deal with in the market.

  • Is the audience right?
  • Is the audience actually defined clearly.
  • What role is your brand/product actually playing?
  • Are their shifts in cultural attitudes & behaviour that you are missing?
  • Are you being true to who you are or positioning yourself because of a competitors POV?

There's a bunch of stuff … but when you really drill down, there will be one or two critical factors that ultimately influence or determine everything."

Oh, and we both thought everyone could have worked harder at presenting their argument in a more inspirational way. Designing your charts a little and thinking about telling your story a little more rather than a series of charts.

Have a look at this for reference as to how you might write a deck for people to read, while still maintaining a sense of theatre and careful pace. And we both thought there was too much repeating of the brief. Consider feedback on how you found the brief to work on, and what tensions or challenges were.