Planning is still about being a catalyst for creativity but the context in which Planners operate has changed hugely – they need to adapt, and quickly, says Mike Teasdale.
“At 01:50 GMT on December 1, 1975, every telephone in the world started to ring.”
So wrote Arthur C. Clarke in Dial F for Frankenstein in 1961. He was painting a picture of the future in which telephones in people’s homes across the globe begin to talk to each other in a network, creating an artificial mind that causes chaos. Imagine that, eh?
Now imagine a centaur Planner: part wo/man & part machine, both working in perfect harmony. A human Planner paired with an AI chatbot designed to learn and know us. But as we shape the bot, it of course shapes us…
We might not be quite there yet but it’s already happening to a degree. We automate the simplest Planning tasks to save time (like proof reading and deck writing) and we use insight bots to trawl the internet and social media to spot patterns we cannot.
The point is, change is happening at a rate of knots. I could fill this column just by listing examples of change in our industry. But I will restrict myself to the big themes and the things every Planner needs to be doing more of as a result.
1. Changing competitive landscape. Be it the evolving holding company model, or the rise of cagencies and in-housing, or the threat of being disintermediated by platforms… it’s never been more competitive for ad agencies.
2. Changing nature of creativity. Are you for culture or conversion? Long run or short run? Insights or data? Ideas or platforms? Humans or AI? Of course, it’s not either/or, but and. Trying to achieve that stretch is causing agencies to contort themselves in excruciating ways.
3. Changing advertising model. Thanks to the internet and social media and mobile technology, we’ve now got active and empowered consumers who want dialogue with brands across multiple platforms and moments in the day. And they want it personalized, or not at all.
4. Changing economic model. We are moving from a production-driven economy to a service-driven one, from a bricks & mortar retail environment to DTC. Consumers are becoming continuous users as we move from ownership to subscription. This has huge implications for brands, especially in a post-voice and post-AI world.
Given all that change, it’s hardly surprising that Planning is also changing. Our discipline is still about being a catalyst for creativity by getting inside people’s heads but the context in which we do this is so different that we must adapt how we do it. I counsel all Planners to ensure they are doing more of the following…
More outdoor planning
Planning is a practical discipline not an academic exercise. It’s a contact sport, one that requires contact with real people. People that are nothing like the ones who work in ad agencies.
The numbers don’t lie: 80% of UK ad agency folk live in London while 87% of the UK population do not; 95% of UK ad agency folk are under 50 when 48% of UK consumer expenditure comes from those over 50.
UK Planners need to get out more, to meet real people outside London. They need to embrace the darkness and messiness of real people’s lives. Only in that contact do the rich insights and human truths lie.
More upstream planning
Planning has always been a servant of creativity, but nowadays it doesn’t have to be exclusively tied to a creative product. Increasingly, clients want us to advise on marketing and brand solutions in several different formats such as innovation and NPD.
If you’re a Planner today you need to be thinking about how you can migrate upstream more, even if your agency is not trying to do so.
More Outcome Planning
As an industry, why do we continue to sell our time rather than price ourselves according to the value we provide? Management consultancies are more skilled than us at modelling future outcomes and charging accordingly.
As Planners, we must look forwards more than backwards. Most planners can explain how a campaign works but how many of us can put together a predictive case for growth? How many of us really understand modelling?
More Beta Planning
Action now drives thinking. Everything is now an experiment where we can conduct real world A/B testing. As a result, we have moved from Think, then Act to Test & Learn. Planners now need to spend more time hustling as well as engaging in deep thought.
And Planners trained to find a uniting truth now need to understand consumers at a more disaggregated level. Modern creative briefs need to encompass more messages across a matrix of audience segments.
Are you up for more Outdoor Planning, more Upstream Planning, more Outcome Planning, and more Beta Planning? I hope so, because the alternative is not pretty. Unless you are a bot.