Planners and Creatives: Collaborative Problem Solving

As the advertising landscape continues to develop over time, it’s become even more critical for agencies to accept that change is inevitable. Not only do agencies need to ensure they are generating results on seemingly increasingly complex solutions for their clients, but they need to adjust how they interpret their clients’ briefs and business challenges if they are to deliver successful campaigns. By trying out new methods, planners are assisting to create more innovative ways of operating and putting in place more dexterous processes.

For advertisers to continue to adapt, it will require some focus on planners and creatives working together for collaborative problem solving. Let’s talk through the current and future state of planning, which may spark some necessary and vigorous debates.

Change starts from within

We’ll kick things off by posing one of the tough questions, “Are advertisers and marketers honestly up for change?”

Agencies search for new data streams and trends that can help outline their approach to client work, but are they truly interested in improving the way they work? In today’s digital environment, acting as agents of change on behalf of their clients is expected, but the trick is to also ensure that attitude trickles down into their internal daily processes.

This can be done effectively by throwing the traditional strategy/creative process to the curb, as it often leads to a siloed discovery of insights and ideas. It’s important to embrace a new framework that substitutes the traditional handoff between planning and creative to ensure there’s no disconnect between both key elements of your workforce. The secret to this new line of attack is to get all the right players together in a room from the get-go.

Involving all factions – planners, creatives, designers, and developers – from the very beginning leads to much better results. By using a creative “sprint structure” that applies to “people’s experiences, instincts, and intuitions,” the user’s needs lie at the heart of every challenge. This emphasises the importance of accountability and responsibility for every member of the team, regardless of prescribed roles. The process is often described as one that “doesn’t feel like writing a brief,” but rather like “decoding an opportunity.”

The best “big ideas” come from simple human insights

Instead of looking to the future, fresh insights and understanding often come from discussing the past. Marketers can see where they’re going by revisiting historical milestones and shifts in advertising. But first and foremost, focus on getting the work right at all costs versus the mindset of maximising billing or keeping clients happy.

The ideal scenario is one in which planners get to work with the data they see as most valuable, keeping in mind the importance of the consumer’s response. It’s suggested that the industry is wrong in thinking that advertising effectiveness is about messaging. In reality, modern theory say that it’s actually about display, signaling, and speaking to the fundamentals of human behaviour. “Adaptive strategy” means referencing what we already understand about human nature while admitting that we don’t possess all the answers.

There is an argument that suggests the only way to understand how technology influences behaviours is to observe and participate ourselves. By skipping the jargon and “industry speak” we can simplify basic behaviours, and as marketers, we should focus on the uncomplicated strategies that really work. Realize that basic human needs are consistent; it’s history that tells us that it’s actually how we manage to fulfill those needs over time, that adapts.

It’s helpful to also focus on integrating simple human insights into strategy. The most simple human insights often sit at the heart of an idea, and it’s the planners that need to think of solutions that push boundaries. Digital is usually very good at continuously touting the ‘next big thing,’ but as much as things progress, they also fall back into the old ways that we used to do thing. Agencies are often tempted to rush toward the first good idea, but they should take the necessary time to unload and dissect client problems, which will actually lead to better, more effective solutions. Marketers should also look to originate ideas that become part of pop culture itself.

Being part of pop culture is more important than any strategy you can concoct, because no one turns around and says ‘I love that strategy,’ or ‘I love that ad.’ Rather, they get excited and discuss the things they love, which is generally not the stuff marketers create.

Action-oriented strategies solve problems

What is a humanistic take on problem-solving, and what does it really mean? It requires that we impact culture, and action-oriented strategies are key to doing so.

As Marketers, we are actually very much like engineers in our approach to problem-solving. Within our roles, we often push ourselves to solve the big human needs. And, in general, it’s safe to say that engineers do the same. But they don’t just write strategies; they ‘build stuff’. So, it makes sense to surmise that Marketers perhaps should also start to ‘build things’ too, and walk the walk, and not just talk about stuff. turn it into something real, something tangible. By taking on an engineer’s approach to strategy and creating something tangible, problem-solving can be more effective and result in clearer and more solid outcomes.

Adapt to the evolving landscape and your clients’ needs

Adaptive strategy involves being able to deliver to the ever-changing business needs of our clients beyond the traditional marketing brief they have come to expect. It includes everything from developing digital roadmaps to platform strategies such as CRM. Recent client wins now extend beyond marketing to consulting and additional key areas, giving birth to a new competitive landscape and a completely new range of rules. Strategists need to accommodate this new context.

There is also a shift away from advertising-based solutions towards “making acts, not ads,” and briefs that “do something” rather than “say something.” It’s more important to find the human truth in everything we do, and it’s a joint responsibility of both the client and the agency. You could say creatives are preoccupied with awards and doing cool stuff; suits are fixated on keeping the clients happy; and as planners, we should be passionate about finding human truth. As advertisers, it’s not our place to interrupt what people are interested in; rather, we have to BE what people are interested in.

Agencies today have a colossal job to do. They are required to help define client objectives, fill in the information gaps, deliver solutions that are both human and practical, and guarantee robust reporting and optimisation techniques. This list will only expand as the landscape continues to grow. The Client will find value not only in big ideas, but also in the largely underrated outcomes that can be derived from smart but simple optimisation techniques. What are the biggest barriers to progress today? What often hampers meaningful change are ingrained mindsets, processes, and balances of power within agencies.

Being open to change, listening to your client’s needs and then being clever enough to deliver over and above what is expected, is how an Agency is going to thrive in this ever-evolving digital landscape. The way to do this is to harness the skills that your creative team offers, and to learn to involve them in the delivery process from the start of every project and job.

Author: Digital Fuel

Words by the Digital Fuel team members