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Aaaa’s planning conference- zeus jones and the future of planning

August 7, 2007

I spent my afternoon trying to discover, for the trillionth time in my life, where planning is heading, with Headmint’s Stephen Walker and Adrian Ho and Rob White of Zeus Jones.

Stephen talked about how Headmint has evolved into a consulting company, who’s business is creating formats and toolboxes to help others identify creative solutions.

He suggested planners should develop a new set of tools because the ones they are using are 20 years out of date. He challenged planners to get out of their regimented Groundhog Day like world and become more Minority Report/Precrime like, a space where they could use their “gymnastic imaginations”.

He picked apart the Creative Brief as a static document that has a limited role in a dynamic world. According to Walker, the brief should be more like a “slowly developing photograph” and evolve over time and should ask questions and suggest potential consumer responses, rather than a static proposition.

He suggests that we look at media in a new way by understanding the benefits consumers derive from different media as a route in.

Finally, he cautioned planners from rushing full bore into the revolution without checking with their culture first. He wanted planners to make sure they matched their evolved process to their agency culture and rolled it out in small steps.

Next on my agenda were Rob White and Adrian Ho of Zeus Jones, who both had enough with talking and blogging about change and decided to do something about it.

Their creation is a DoTank. Their whole pitch is about developing marketing that creates value for the consumer; value creation, instead of creactive communication. Something that any brand can now do because of Web 2.0.

Rob White suggested the catalyst for Zeus Jones is the flawed advertising industry model that’s fixated on lowering unit costs and winning creative awards.

They also believe the ad industry is full of smart planners, who can’t unlock their potential because they are limited to feeding the ad making machine. It’s a wrongly configured system designed to identify ad making opportunities, not business building ideas.

Zeus Jones has a single minded motivation- grow the client’s business and they only get paid if they can do this.

They harkened back to Sir Ken’s morning session when talking about their flat five-person structure, one that obviously allows ideas to come from anywhere and anyone.

Rob ended the session on a positive note by suggesting how planning had the power to help re-invent the ad industry just like it had done in the UK in the 1960s.

For those less interested in battling their own culture, perhaps ZJ is the future of planning, a world with more agency/consultancy start-ups led by planners.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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