Thursday, 10 May 2007

APG Training Network

A couple of months ago attended the APG (Account Planners Group) training network. An extremely interesting series of talks culminating in a group presentation project to a bunch of top planners about a struggling brand and what we'd do with it.

One thing particularly fun, as someone working for an online agency, was seeing the opulance of successful above the line agencies. Blimey.

Anyway, I did some scribbles for each talk, so i thought i'd stick them up.

Week 1: George Bryant - What is planning?

George's talk was a great introduction to the art of planning. He talked about how little of someone's attention we get - a piece of research they did showed that the 'average' person in a single day saw 2904 messages, paid attention to 50, engaged with 25, then finally acted upon 3. Which does bring you up short.
He gave a cool example of how Sainsbury's 'try something new' was inspired by a slightly sideways way of getting round some massively ambitious targets for the advertising.
He railed against lazy planning, saying it's tired/rote and formulaic. Often because people often turn into Presentation Creaters, rather than Idea communicators.
His top tips:
  • Don't just say something about a product, show something about a project. The web makes this easier, and much more powerful.
  • Don't be an island - your ideas will be better, and will be more likely to get used/accepted. Probably his most important message
He also showed some cool ads and explained how they came about.

I like the message about not being an island. It's quite easy to do in both IA and Planning - overintellectualise something, then create a presentation about it, deliver the presentation/documentation, then consider the job done.
I also liked the message about focussing on the Business problem behind a brief, then trying to solve that, rather than taking assumptions of a solution loaded into a brief.

Week 2: Malcolm White - The changing value of brands

I really enjoyed Malcolm's talk. He was funny and thought provoking.
Brands are complicated - we try and simplify them into stooopid diagrams which are prescriptive and inhibit creativity. He then delved more into what it is that makes up a 'Brand' - ironically summing it up with the most simplistic brand diagram possible - that of a peach, the pit being the product, and the flesh being the 'brand' that makes it attractive and different.

He made a good point about 'Brand' being something that is not cared about by most people Planners deal with - which leads to planning becoming a variety of roles. Author / Evangalist / Translator. A brand needs a 'vision' - a reason for living. Profit and money are just a given, like oxygen & blood.

Very enjoyable talk indeed.
Week 3: Vanella Jackson - Developing a great strategy

This talk was a real shame, it was moved later by a couple of weeks and i think some of the others stole her thunder. She came across as phenomenally clever and would be a brilliant mentor, but a lot of her talk had been covered before, and it felt a bit like a summary of what had come before, rather than a new injection of ideas.
There were some nice ideas about having a variety of comms strategies of a single brand strategy, and how a brand promise must change over time as circumstances change around it.

A shame - i think she should either come earlier in the list of talks, or take a slightly different topic. Something like details on those two ideas above. eg, how to manage a brand over time, to evolve it around circumstances.

Week 4: Tom Morton: Creative Briefs and Creative Briefing

Another really enjoyable talk with some ideas that have really stuck with me. Particularly the sentiment that "The Clearer the Problem is > The bolder the solution can be" and Be useful to your creatives - that's the best way to be a good planner for creatives.
his blog

Week 5: Rebecca Munds: The role of the planner in the creative development

Some fun thoughts. Very important to clarify the 'Big' creative idea, and it should be able to live seperate to the executions. Should be able to talk about the idea without mentioning executions.
Best quote:
"Don't be the Devil's Advocate, he's got enough advocates"
    I think this is one of the clearest notes pages - the least ambiguous so doesn't need a huge amount of explanation. Just follow the arrows clockwise.

    Week 6: John Owen - What does digital mean for planning
    I couldn't make this week, as i was skiing, so instead I met him for lunch and he talked me through it. I thought it a bit rude to sketch him over the dinner table, so instead we just chatted. Much more interesting one-on-one and the conversation roamed outside the presentation.
    The presentation itself was more of an intro to digital for above the line planners so less useful for me as a digi-boy, but chatting with John did create lots of thoughts. Many thanks John!

    Week 7: Alice Schaffer - Evaluating advertising effectiveness
    What a fascinating talk! Digital doesn't really have any of this stuff, so this introduced me to loads of things i didn't know about. The entire realm of 'econometrics' for instance which in this context is to do with creating models that take into account every (?!) external factor surrounding a product so that it's possible to isolate particular factors that have affected sales. Then, if it's actually a robust model, you can illustrate what would happen if... and predict the future. Sounds mega hardcore and really fascinating.
    She highly recommended a book called the Hidden Power of Advertising. (£45 though) which, i think, is about how much more we're affected by messaging than we actually think we are.

    As with some of the other speakers she rammed home the importance of defining the problem - as then you can figure out the best ways of deciding how well it addresses that problem.

    Week 8 was the presentation, but that's a whole other post.
    Read about it on mega-blogger Vincent Thomé's blog

    Great course, absolute bargain and really interesting speakers.

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