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The Evolving Role of Planners in the Accelerated Age

April 24, 2015 at 3:39pm by Matthew Michels

An astonishing proliferation in communications platforms and rapid democratization of information have made it more challenging than ever for brands to stay relevant. Clients increasingly rely on us to make sense of the shifting communications landscape, and to provide thought leadership that they can merchandise throughout their organizations. Creatives look for us to help map out how their ideas will be brought to life across the consumer journey, which consists of an ever-expanding array of touch-points.

Nonetheless, a planner’s role is fundamentally the same as it was before the internet and smartphones transformed our lives: to understand what’s important to people, how they interact with one another and the world around them, and how brands can complement their experiences; and to use this understanding to help focus creative development and connections planning such that business objectives are effectively and efficiently achieved.

For planners to add value we need to understand how all these new channels, platforms and technologies intersect with and complement one another. We have to be able to answer the question of which new-fangled ways of talking to people are a good fit for their brands, which are not, and which are just dumb buzzy fads. If you aren’t on top of what’s new, how it might impact consumer behaviour, and you have no inkling as to what’s next, you’ll have a hard time contributing to the creative process and will likely find yourself banished to the kids’ table.

As our clients grow ever more comfortable taking the plunge—or at least dipping their toes—into digital waters, we need to demonstrate, in familiar terms, that their marketing dollars are well spent. There’s no a priori reason why a brand should deploy a 360°, always-on connections strategy—the bottom line (ROI) is still the bottom line, no different than with broadcast media, except now we can and should be more precise in our targeting and measurement. Our clients are explicitly asking for it. When asked how agency partners can be more effective with respect to digital solutions, Andrew Zimakas, CMO of Tangerine, put it thusly:

Start with a measurement focus in mind. If you can’t succinctly express how it can be measured, then perhaps what’s being proposed needs to be rethought. Thinking about digital and being innovative around how we think about digital is important but, not without thinking about how it integrates with other aspects of the marketing mix or how it integrates overall from a strategic perspective.[1]

Keeping up with the pace of technological innovation and shifts in consumer attitudes and behaviours is not going to get any easier. Traditional advertising’s effectiveness is eroding, as younger people demand transparency and ‘authentic experiences’ across more platforms, more quickly. We need to work ever more collaboratively with clients, creatives and account folks, and we’ve got to remain curious, open-minded and eager to make sense of what’s next.

[1] “Managing Digital: Tangerine’s Andrew Zimakas.”, March 23 2015.



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On the blog of john you’ll find short articles written by our people. It will include thoughts and opinions on advertising, brand strategy, planning, digital, social media, design, careers, pop culture and relevant trends.