The following work was submitted by Steve Bayley in response to my assignment to read an advertising book and teach the class 3 main points using creative presentation. Steve chose to teach the class about How To Plan Advertising. You can also view his YouTube presentation below. Enjoy!
How To Plan Advertising is written as a collaborative effort from some of the leading Account Planners of the eighties and nineties. The book is a product of the Account Planning Group, a planners advocacy organization based in Great Britain. Account Planning was first invented in the seventies by famed UK planners Stephen King and Stanley Pollitt. It is easy to confuse Account Planning with Marketing Research for the uninitiated. The biggest difference between these two disciplines is in their orientation. Planning uses research as one of the tools to guide advertising strategy development. Coupled with knowledge of the marketplace, understanding of consumers, a little psychology, basic knowledge of the fundamental aspects of the creative and media planning processes, and a healthy dose of intuition, the planner is able to draw on a wide variety of experiences to make informed advertising strategy decisions. Marketing Research is built around the accumulation of hard data. This is certainly true for quantitative applications like regression and segmentation, but is also applicable on the qualitative side. Through open-ended depth interviews and focus groups. These research methods still produce massive amounts of written and recorded data, which can be used to guide strategy development. The author compares the agency cultures of the British and American ad industries and suggests that the reason planning has not taken hold in more agencies in the US is that at the end of the day, some advertising strategy developed by planning is not quantifiable and requires an educated leap of faith. We Americans are told to constantly document and back up our claims and are uncomfortable taking the risks that are necessary to produce truly great advertising.
In order to develop effective, workable advertising strategies planners must have both analytic and imaginative skills. Good strategy results from being able to answer the tough advertising questions by possessing knowledge of consumer behavior. Knowing how consumers will react to certain advertisements and whether those ads will resonate enough with consumers to get them to purchase the advertised product is the ultimate goal. A campaign could be considered a success even if it does not move the customer to purchase if it can alter the consumers disposition toward the brand. This is the reason that setting advertising objectives is so important. Clear lines of communication should exist between the client and the agency beforehand, so that when the campaign is a success, we can identify what worked. This sounds like common sense but a surprising amount of advertising is made without first delineating mutually agreed upon campaign objectives. The planner should have an in depth knowledge of the clients business in order to build trust in the client relationship, and to ensure the relevancy of the strategic execution.
Creative Briefs and Briefing
Once a strategy is defined it can be used to guide the development of the creative brief. The creative brief is a document that the planner prepares for the creative team to help guide them to the insights that will spawn relevant advertising ideas. Good briefs are clear, focused, and inspiring. The brief should be narrowly focused but fall short of actually describing advertising ideas. That is the job of the creative team. The brief typically serves three masters, the client, the planner, and the creative team. Its important not to get too caught up in the format of the creative brief. Creative briefs come in various forms and there is no standard that is better than another. The effective brief will contain areas for information entry regarding reasons for advertising, insights about the audience, and what it is we want the audience to take away from the advertising. Additionally, there are typically areas in the brief where consumer attitudes are investigated, as well as tone and style of previous advertising campaigns for the brand, which may have helped shape opinions about the brand that exist today. There is mention of the increasing importance of media planning and its integration with the planning process. This integration of media and account planning has become more prominent since the books publication, due to the fractured and diverse modern media environment. In the video, I touch on some of the ways in which media planning has integrated with account planning.
The creative briefing is a meeting where the planner first distributes the brief to the creative team and sets the stage for the creative development process. The briefing is typically done in the office, although off site briefing trips may help spark the creative process by getting the creative immersed in the world of the brand firsthand. This can be a useful tool, just use with caution. You don’t want to develop the reputation of a field tripper!
Creative Development Research
Qualitative and quantitative methods are both used to research advertising ideas. Qualitative is much more common early in the creative development process to get an insight into how the consumer feels about or interacts with the product. Focus Groups, Mini Groups, and one on one in-depth interviews are the most common qualitative methods. Quantitative methods usually involve pre-testing. Pre-testing is the research carried out on finished creative work prior to ads appearing on air. Pre-testing is often used as one last double check by the client to make sure they are comfortable with the campaign they are about to air. Quantitative methods generally fall under either the persuasion or attitude shift group of techniques or the impact and communication group of techniques. Persuasion is concerned with measuring advertising views and the ads ability to convert sales. Impact and communication techniques measure brand recall, like/dislike, and attitudes toward the advertising.
Planning in the International Arena
As Planning has grown beyond the borders of Great Britain, we see great value in the planning process or international applications. Because the focus of planning is aligning consumer insights with advertising executions relevant to the tastes of the target audience, it should be clear how important understanding a given audiences cultural filter and how their worldview and values shape their comprehension and approval of advertising. It is a balancing act in international planning between using economies of scale to reach people across borders in the most cost effective manner possible and developing the most relevant and insightful marketing messages. The international planner will have to work even more closely with their client to ensure comprehension of objectives are mutually agreed on between agency and client. Product Truths tend to translate across cultures well, and provide bases of successful international advertising campaigns. Clarity of the brief is the most important aspect of the international planning process, and the area where there could potentially be the most misunderstandings. Be clear in the briefing as to what you hope to find in your creative development research. By clearly communicating the goals it will be easier to establish cross-cultural comprehension of advertising objectives.
Questions for Discussion
- Why is planning still considered a luxury in the United States, particularly in small to mid-sized agencies?
- Do you feel it is more important to invest heavier in strategic or creative development research? Why?
- What do you feel is the biggest or most common obstacles for international account planners? How do you think planning must be approached differently if a campaign is to be aired internationally vs. in any one market?
How To Plan Advertising. 2nd Edition, edited by Alan Cooper. The Account Planning Group,1997. Contributions from Alan Cooper, M.T. Rainey, Simon Clemmow, Leslie Butterfield, Charlie Robertson, Jaspar Shelbourne, Merry Baskin, Jackie Boulter, Paul Feldwick, Dan O’Donoghue, Rita Clifton, Paul Edwards, Michael Harvey