23 July 2008

JWT celebrates 40 Years of Account Planning in London/Campaign UK Report

40 Years of Planning, Campaign, by Suzanne Bidlake , July 16, 2008
JWT hosts an evening marking the 40th anniversary of planning and looking forward to what the future holds for the discipline.
As the sun went down on July 15, a 130-strong crowd gathered under a tee-pee on a roof-terrace overlooking Harrods to give praise - to account planning.
The ruby-themed event at JWT's Knightsbridge HQ was to celebrate the birth of account planning at the agency, exactly 40 years ago to the day, under the aegis of the legendary Stephen King.
A stellar line-up of speakers entertained, informed and bamboozled an audience that included Martin Boase, one of the founding fathers of the discipline, and clients such as Philip Almond, the European marketing director of Diageo, and Simon Clift, Unilever's global marketing chief.

Speakers Jeremy Bullmore, Jon Steel, John Grant and Guy Murphy, JWT's worldwide director of planning, paid homage to King and called for planners to look to the past for answers to the future.

Constant themes were the need for more old-fashioned rigour in fact-finding and data-mining (not just "being cool and smart and hanging out with the creative department") and also for more ambitious target-setting.

Planners were variously urged to get angry, to shake up clients' obsession with short-termism, to find a big theme and to continuously get under the skin of different cultures.

JWT chief executive Alison Burns painted a picture of planners as weird, dull, bookish guy-without-a girl types in her introduction to the evening. They are the navigators of the plane piloted by the account managers, she said. Rarely adequately recognised, they come into their own when things go wrong - landing the plane on just one engine and one wheel - and still the pilot all too often gets the glory (and the girl).

Yesterday evening was different. It celebrated their contribution and attempted to shed a light on how planning would live its next 40 years.

Here's a sample of wisdom imparted.

Jeremy Bullmore, non-executive director, WPP
Bullmore's talk was entitled, "In praise of antimonies", partly to show off, he admitted. "It's quite a long word, not many of you know what it means, and I do," he said, setting the tone for his talk, delivered with comedic timing throughout.

The main thrust of his argument was that there must be some antinomy, some conflict, between the planning and creative functions for great ideas to flourish.

He talked at length about planners' post-rationalisation when being shown an idea by two "under-educated" types in black t-shirts.

In real-life, "a client might be asked to spend 35 million pounds on, let's say, an animated vampire duck, on the sole basis that someone in a black t-shirt tells them it is pushing the creative envelope," he said. "I have yet to meet one who will. And this is not a reflection of their cowardice. Post-rationalisation is not only respectable but absolutely essential."

In a planning world inhabited by "ad tweakers", performing elegant pirouettes rarely troubled by a fact, and "grand strategists" who crush people to death with PowerPoint presentations, planners in the future need to find a middle ground that embraces both approaches, Bullmore said.

In a later Q&A session, Bullmore said that marketing was more necessary than ever to combat the harmful consequences of excessive consumerism. "We have never been in greater need of good marketing than now," he said. "But it won't all be for crisps."

Jon Steel, WPP's advertising strategist
The promise of planning is really tested in existing business, not new business, Steel said. "In the absence of great creative, planning will never make the work better," he suggested, adding that great planning requires "hard work and information."

"I lament the amount of grounding I see in a lot of creative and planning today," he added.

Changes in clients' world had also contributed to the situation, he argued. Short tenure of chief marketing officers (an average of two years in the US) meant "doing the right thing is not as important as doing something" to them.

Also, the term procurement used to conjure up images of illicit night-time activities. "Now it's a constant day-time word," he said, "and no damn fun at all."

Steel called for anger and energy among planners to "change the disappointing marketing status quo".

"Who is really setting big, hairy, audacious goals?" he challenged. "We need to be more ambitious in our targets."

Planners can spend hours debating how many of them can fit on the head of a pin and whether Paul Feldwick can pass through the eye of a needle, he said. His answers, given as an aside, were "not many and no".

But the chief role of planning, he reminded the audience, is to help clients set the right objectives for their brands and businesses. "To move forwards, we need to look backwards," he suggested. If planners were merely "cool", "we should fire them", he said. Similarly, those who are not good with numbers and can't do quantitative research should meet the same fate.

"The fundamentals of planning may not sometimes be very interesting but planners and planning ignore them at their peril," he warned.

John Grant, marketing consultant

Thanking the god of fashion that he'd put on a white t-shirt rather than black under his cream linen suit, Grant talked at pace, without notes, charting the life-cycle of brands and relating them to planning. Perhaps, at 40, the discipline is in the throes of a mid-life crisis, he mused.

Taking the brand Brad Pitt as an example, he reeled through the life-cycle stages: who's Brad Pitt?; get me Brad Pitt; get me Brad Pitt for less money; get me the new Brad Pitt, and who's Brad Pitt?

He wondered whether the trend for "fast strategy" meant that planning had reached the "get me planning for less money" stage.

At 40, he said, we can go one of two ways. One is stagnation, in which we become smaller versions of ourselves, repeating the same old arguments. The other is generativity, in which we start believing in something more important than who we are and what we stand for.

Grant has identified sustainability as his personal generative issue and has thrown himself into it for a book on the subject.

But planning needs to find its own generative question, he said. It may be about the future model of the agency. "Saving the ad agency might be your generative thing," he suggested. "Let's look for the bigger space and the generative issue."

Guy Murphy on planning on global brands

Murphy said King would have wanted to remind planners that they are in the business of "helping clients make more money from their money".

But are we so obsessed with new media that we are creating "bits, not brands?" Murphy asked.

Geographic expansion into regions where prospects are huge, with the opportunity to spread risk, makes an irresistible cocktail. "This is marketing's mojito," he said. "It's a chapter of planning yet to be written and we must pioneer it."

The onus is on culture-neutral brand ideas, capable of flexing around the world and based in human truth, he said. This would contrast with a lazy carving up of the world to reflect client structures.

The new-style planners JWT wants to recruit can be likened to piranhas, he said. They are likely to come from places other than the UK and US (combating idea racism) and their multi-cultural experience will mean they will be more creative than the generation before them.

"How long will it be," he asked, "before Cannes consistently awards the Grand Prix to global campaigns?"

To read readily dowloaded pdfs www.coffeeanddonuts.co.in
To view the speeches, http://www.planningbeginsat40.com/.

No comments:

Post a Comment