Gareth Goodall: Planners still have the magic touch - rabbits or no rabbits

By Gareth Goodall, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 22 September 2011 08:00AM

Advertising awards. We love them, don't we? Apparently, the only industry with a stronger addiction to a self-administered pat on the back is hairdressing.

Gareth Goodall is the head of planning at Fallon

Gareth Goodall is the head of planning at Fallon

Well, fair enough. Having watched my grandad Frank cutting my brother's ear off during a botched back-and-sides attempt, I'd say hairdressers deserve every plaudit. But do we really need yet another award? Especially one honouring planners?

The roots of the Account Planning Group Strategy Awards provide an insight into the origins of planning itself: they were designed to convince sceptical creative directors that planners were actually useful. As times changed, they helped to prove to clients that the bloke in the thick-rimmed specs was worth shelling out for. And nowadays, with those battles won (though the odd "ivory tower" pseudo-intellectual no doubt still lets us down on occasion), the APG Awards continue to track the unfolding history of the strategic discipline.

So, this year, we saw the rise of planning turning its expertise to new channels and forms: web design, apps, experience architecture, investment models. And with it came new challengers to traditional agencies' stranglehold on the award.

We also saw the continued blurring of the line between planning and other disciplines. Most noticeable, inevitably, was the ever-growing grey area between planning and the creative department, with creatives involved ever earlier in the strategic stage of a project and planners "welcomed" (or, in the case of one planner's fractious relationship with a director, "tolerated") further downstream. As such, we saw more planners involved in the production stages of advertising, be it in achieving more bang for less buck or in the organising and distribution of content in real time.

We questioned whether big brand planning, that classic magician's touch of taking a dog of a brand and pulling it out of the hat as a beautiful white rabbit, had fallen out of favour. Certainly, there were not many examples of it. Are we tackling fewer and fewer big brand problems? (Perhaps because clients are more adept at doing this themselves?) Or are there just an increasingly high number of interestingly complex problems needing to be solved on the ever-emerging Wild West edges of our clients' businesses?

Finally, some things are proven to remain timeless. Specifically: talent. Talent, it transpires, still startles. Talent doesn't over-sell. Talent doesn't boast or lecture. Talent tells the tale. And it tells it with humour, empathy, intelligence and (a power-sell or two aside) huge amounts of charm. Exactly what clients seem to value most highly. I imagine that they're pretty important characteristics at the hairdressing awards too.

Gareth Goodall is the head of planning at Fallon and chair of the shortlisting panel for the 2011 APG Creative Strategy Awards

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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