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Planning- old school or new school?

August 5, 2008

At JWT’s 40th Birthday celebrations for the discipline of Planning, Jon Steel gave a passionate speech about the need for craft skills that he defined as not just looking cool and hanging out with creative folks, but rolling up one’s sleeves getting out into the field doing focus groups and wading through sales reports.

Jon seemed to suggest that any other approaches were somehow invalid and irrelevant.

It’s interesting that two of this year’s finalists in the Jay Chiat Planning Awards demonstrated two different styles and sides of the Planning discipline.

The Diamond Bride work from JWT Mumbai!, the planners did their homework and went out into the field to understand in detail what gold and diamonds meant and could mean to brides.

Goodby, Jon’s old agency, showed a different type of Planning approach when developing a strategy for Rolling Rock. This approach was much less traditional, more renegade and more about understanding of the current communication framework.The planners looked at and read blogs to examine the context of the conversation around the brand and developed a strategy to respond and ignite the conversation. They only used focus groups as creative fodder.

However, I don’t believe in the Old School vs. New School argument.

It’s not about either/or, but it’s more likely to include both.

It could be argued that Fallon’s work for Cadbury was devoid of Planning insight and relied only on the gut intuition of creative. Listening to Lawrence Green, it appears this wasn’t the case and Fallon’s planners worked hard to describe and define the new context and opportunity for brands in this changing environment.

In reality, the advertising environment has changed so dramatically, that unless Planners have an understanding of both content and context, they will be hopelessly lost.

As always, the idea for content, or the creative proposition can come from anywhere, even sales reports, but we now have access to a lot more material these days, beyond the focus group, to find these ideas.

The challenge for planners is to come up with platforms for ideas that have power in today’s communication environment, they have to understand the context in which communication now works, without that, all the discipline in the world counts for nothing.

Overall, the role of Planning is to inspire brilliantly effective work.

What this requires in 2008, is different to 1998 and will be different again in 2018.

The discipline needs to evolve, not look backwards.

It needs to take from the best from the past and build upon it, but it also needs to find new tools and new techniques to remain relevant.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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