By Rik Moore, MP for Strategy, as originally featured in The Media Leader
“Firstly, are you OK?”
Holly Willoughby’s opening line as she returned to the sofa after the recent Schofield saga could apply to any conversation with someone working in advertising right now.
As planners, we’ve been forced to become experts in uncertainty. There’s a huge amount to process in the world right now: the gravity of the Climate Emergency, a bleak economy, rising costs, the acceleration of AI capabilities, and the vital need to do better on so many levels within the industry as we build an open and inclusive workplace and output.
It’s a lot.
However, rather than be overwhelmed and disheartened at having to grapple with big challenges, it is imperative that we maintain a clarity of thought to help our businesses and our clients navigate the world around us to deliver the greatest success.
So, with all that bombardment going on, how do you stop getting over-saturated? How do you keep a clear head and stay on track to deliver smart and creative plans for your client?
The answer is to go back to the core skills of Craft Planning, defined here as the art, the skills and the best practice that come together, fuelling the creativity to deliver the best work possible.
We spoke about Craft Planning a lot as in industry back in 2017, but it seems to have got lost in the mix of the last few years as the industry gets obsessed with the hunt for the ‘new’. Whilst innovation will always have its place, it works best when built on foundations of best practice.
That is why it is so heartening to see the takeaways from this years Cannes Lions so heavily focussed on effectiveness, most notably Les Binet, Grace Kite and Tom Roach’s talk on The Third Age Of Effectiveness.
Good Craft Planning should always have Effectiveness at it’s heart, so it’s great to see new data on how the thinking is evolving and shifting to show a better understanding of how digital can now present an opportunity for greater returns.
Adding new insight to existing fundamentals unlocks creativity. It reframes challenges, as threats can become benefits, turning disruption to your favour.
In favour of honing the foundation to then take an additive approach, here are four simple tactics to help you do that and make the most of you planning:
Reacquaint yourself with the fundamentals
There is a great deal to gain from doing this, as it either builds your confidence by reinforcing your knowledge of key principles or highlights any gaps in your game.
The MIPA-accredited IPA courses are a great place to start, particularly the IPA Advanced Certificate in Effectiveness.
Make yourself a sponge for new ideas. Carve time for reading, podcasts, and any other material that will stimulate your brain and broaden your perspective.
If that seems unwieldy, start with a few trusted sources and respected voices, then widen your scope to add in different viewpoints and perspectives.
The aim should be a diversity of sources to cross-pollinate ideas. Also, seems obvious, but always credit your sources.
Protect your headspace
There has been a huge and welcome shift in Mental Health awareness both in the industry and in wider society, and in a world where we’re always on, always contactable, and juggling short deadlines, it is imperative you protect your headspace.
Your own thinking and reflecting time gives you opportunity to experience broader media and culture, developing lateral ideas and viewpoints to enrich your work practice.
Distraction from work also gives your subconscious time to wrestle with bigger work projects: I heard Trevor Beattie tell a story once where he would read a brief and then go and garden and wait for a creative idea to form in his head strong enough to tempt him back to his desk. I love that.
Find ways to get your brain up and out and protect that time — it will make you better overall.
Find the excitement
It’s surprisingly easy to forget, but in any brief, no matter how mundane, there is always a reason to be excited.
One of the planner’s roles is to identify that excitement and use it to galvanize the team on a given project. If you can make that excitement infectious and bring those around you on the journey, its when you can unlock peoples best thinking to get the strongest ideas.
We now have specific space on internal briefing documents to make sure that it is elevated and front and centre in the team’s minds.
If you can refocus on the fundamentals of craft planning, then use that to build and evolve your practice, you will have a rock-solid framework to deal with the ever-shifting world around you.