At the end of April Coca-cola announced that it was going to form its own account planning group. A curious movement by a client. This article though, is different from the first one that I read on the matter, saying that having planning in house meant that they would work directly with creatives in agencies.
I’ve noticed over the years that clients only see one end of the planning spectrum.Historically, planning had two simultaneous births. One was to work with creative teams, which meant that planners were there to provide insights to creative teams and were part of the creative process. The other was to work with clients and formulate more consumer-centric marketing strategies.
The first article therefore, I believe, expressed the common view by clients that planners are there to help a client formulate communications strategies. Of course they’d want that in house. What client wouldn’t want to own their strategy. It has been strange watching research agencies struggling to own some measure of client strategy and competing with advertising agencies in that struggle. Advertising agencies don’t own client’s strategy either. What researchers miss is that an agency has two bits to understand brands: intellectual and feeling. And in many ways the feeling is much more important than all of the rationalisation that goes around what a brand is. And creatives generally do that best because their job is to speak as the brand.
But it seems that Coke has a wider view of planning than this. BBH created planning to provide deeper insight to creative teams. Planners in this model get reviewed by how well they’re contributing to the creative team. To do this job well you have to understand not just the consumer but what is influencing them and how it’s influencing them. At a superficial level that becomes influencers in the purchase decision, but at a deeper level that is what the cultural influences are and where they are coming from. This is harder, but it is a lot more interesting. Yes, this is the realm of Faith Popcorn, but it’s a lot more than that too. This is art.
However, to me planning is still more than this. Media shops are hiring planners too, because they realise that Marshall Mcluhan was right when he said “the medium is the message.” This has been oversimplified by media departments for years with clichés like: television is an emotional medium and print is rational. The problem they’re facing is that traditional media are wearing out and they’re being demanded by clients to look at multiple touchpoints. Coupled with that is that media fragmentation is leading to a need for the traditional model of reach and frequency to be at least complemented with the role of the touchpoint in consumers lives and its role for the brand. Which means that the more leading edge media shops are doing some advanced planning thinking.
The unfortunate thing is that the planning department gets stuck into one of the three parts of being a planner. This is generally due to the bias of the agency. And that’s unfortunate, because what planning offers is in fact integration. Because planners link the business needs to what will motivate a consumer (I hate that word) – across brand, message and medium. And they do that as partners in the creative process.
Of course Coca-cola wouldn’t want to give that up.
And that’s the job I love.