Fast Forward Or Frame-by-Frame Planning?
Around a decade ago I started to meet experienced account planners who maligned the loss of planning craft in the young upstarts who were joining the diverse tribe of people who are now planners.
Times have changed; project turn-around has greatly accelerated, leaving planners tasked to complete projects ever-faster. A deadline of a week may be given for a project that may have been given 2 or even 4 weeks to complete just a few years ago. I’ve certainly experienced this change on many occasions and observed it becoming increasingly common amongst planning friends. Thank God for 48 and 72 hour turn-around from some skilled research professionals.
A couple of weeks ago I noticed the IPA Strategy Group hosted an event called Fast Strategy. The event pulled in some heavy-weight account planning talent from a variety of backgrounds to demonstrate if rapid planning could deliver a credible response to a brief.
The event went well and here is the link to the summary of the activity: IPA Strategy Group: Fast Strategy
While businesses may want definitive and actionable answers from planners as fast as possible. The decision making process within the client doesn’t appear quite as rushed. Surely people aren’t sitting on the planning reports and recommendations they’ve pushed for with such priority? Perhaps they are simply finding it tougher to negotiate the approval of planning work which has been rushed?
I do genuinely believe that it is possible for a planner who spends their day toilling within a particular industry to gain a reasonable gut-feel for what will probably work or not for a particular consumer audience. It’s the potential degree of success possible from such speedy work which is of course open to question. As there probably won’t have been time for reflection, debate or validation though research analysis before the rapidly produced work is presented.
Unearthing fresh insight, counting the numbers and debating ideas quite probably produces better planning than ‘I thought of this and didn’t have time to think of something else.’ Although in saying this, an example leaps to mind where, from first-sight of a client brief, I’d drafted the strategy and written the finished creative brief within three hours. This left the remaining six or so days prior to what became a successful pitch presentation for the creatives to work their magic around the planning idea to great effect. The rapid resolution of what to do up front also left me free to research and refine a supporting presentation. The key for this happy event was not only did I already have relevant market knowledge in my head. But I had ready access to reports and supporting data which demonstrated the relevance of the idea through facts. Facts hidden within plain sight of pre-existing research data and awaiting use.
Another question also arises when thinking of servicing planning needs at speed. The question is of course how much will a client pay, and is it less, when work is produced more quickly? If the work is without the investigation and rigour of researched evidence, why shouldn’t it be much cheaper?
I’ve recently completed a project which required four weeks of research analysis, with the aid of statisticians to interrogate and model four years of existing research data. My gut-feel, expressed at the beginning of the research, has been proven correct. But now my planning work will be considered in light of the overwhelming evidence in the accompanying data, and not just the opinion of an observant planner.
So while we are all asked to Fast-Forward to the planning recommendations in a proposal. We still benefit from being able to pause and search, frame-by-frame, through the insights, ideas and supporting figures which reinforce and assert the value of a planning proposal.
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Tags: Account Planning, Fast Strategy, Frame-by-Frame Planning, IPA, Kevin Sugrue