Media: Double Standards - Why research really is useless without insight

What are the most important factors in a successful campaign, planning or creativity? Two experts argue that the two disciplines have almost overlapped.

BEN KAY - chief strategy officer, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

- How much does a campaign rely on research?

At the risk of being obtuse, both too little and too much. Research plays two valuable roles in campaign development, it inspires and then it validates. The former is undervalued and underutilised, the latter is overvalued and frequently abused. As a rule of thumb, 50 per cent more strategic research and 50 per cent less executional research would give us many more interesting and effective campaigns.

- Is strategy or creativity more important for successful campaigns?

The two are mutually dependent and, done well, hardly distinguishable from one another. Creativity without strategy runs the risk of being like a fireworks display over the Gobi Desert, spectacular but ultimately pointless.

Strategy without creativity is like root canal surgery, eminently sensible but not particularly appealing.Ultimately, the unique proposition that good agencies offer is an environment where creativity and strategy not only co-exist but inform and inspire one another. When one dominates the work suffers, trust is lost and clients leave. If you have to pick one, however, it would be creativity ... a random act of brilliance is always going to have more of a chance to effect change than an invisible act of responsibility.

- What is the most important factor for an innovative campaign?

Somewhat counterintuitively, rigour. The industry is bursting with innovative ideas, but if the rationale for why it makes sense, to whom and to what effect isn't crystal clear, it will be lucky to see the light of day. No matter whether it's the Decode Recode project for the V&A or Lloyds TSB's children's publishing partnership with Ladybird, clients recognise that innovation is a means to an end, and not being able to prove that relationship can quickly make purposeful innovation appear more like creative indulgence.

- How do media planners and ad planners work together on a campaign?

Good media and ad planners have overlapping skills and complimentary perspectives. Both understand what changes attitudes and behaviour and both appreciate the relationship between a brand and its customers. Given that both are also working towards the same objective, it is a shame that one of the industry's structural quirks can create an environment where the two disciplines compete rather than collaborate. A good partnership between media and ad planner is as valuable as the relationship between copywriter and art director. Thankfully, this increasingly seems to be the rule rather than the exception.

- Are media agencies encroaching on the planning territory previously occupied by creative agencies and is this a threat?

No more than McKinsey or Wolff Olins present a threat to creative agencies. Good planners can work anywhere, but ultimately it's the resource that surrounds them that will make them successful or not. Planners at their best are an agency's spark plugs, but spark plugs need engines.

RICHARD MORRIS - deputy managing director, Carat

- How much does a campaign rely on research?

A campaign should rely on insight. And insight relies on research. The quality and quantity of research has been transformed over the past few years, primarily in the digital space. A consumer's digital footprints can, for example, help us better understand how they interact with a brand on an almost real-time basis. CCS - Carat's biggest research project - is an in-depth analysis of the changing relationship between consumers, media and brands and is pivotal to much of the work we do for our clients. Such information gives the planner a chance to improve the relevance and resonance of the communications strategies they develop. But in itself research is no more than just potential, and it is certainly no substitute for judgment. It is only when research is transformed into insight that its value can be realised.

- Is strategy or creativity more important for successful campaigns?

When adding value to clients' business, everything needs strategic context, since without it, how do you know where to aim? Increasingly, we are developing solutions that stretch far beyond advertising and involve many more stakeholders; making universally understood, cohesive strategies even more crucial. Creativity is, more often than not, the key to translating insight into effective, successful campaigns. I do think historically "creativity" in media agencies has been ill-defined and the responsibility of just a few. Creativity can and should be applied to everything we do. Finding interesting applications for different data sets, for example, is a particular endeavour here at Carat. For instance, we've used Google search data to shape an entire Sale strategy for a retail client, both onand offline.

- What is the most important factor for an innovative campaign?

Innovation in itself is not particularly hard to come by and unfortunately has, for some, become an end in itself. The most important factor is whether an innovation can add value by making (and be proven to make) a difference to a client's business. Campaign's Media Campaign of the Year is a good case in point. While British Gas' partnership with British Swimming is certainly innovative - helping to reframe the brand's relationship with its customers - it is its proven impact on customer recommendation that makes it something of which we are truly proud.

- How do media planners and ad planners work together on a campaign?

The most productive relationships start with a common goal. We believe in not starting with an ad, but rather an idea that can work across multiple marketing disciplines.

I can honestly say that I've never had anything but a positive experience working with account planners. That's not to say we always agree, far from it, but we strive to develop strategies that make the most out of our respective disciplines.

- Are media agencies encroaching on the planning territory previously occupied by creative agencies and is this a threat?

I don't think so. The contemporary media landscape - increasingly sociable, addressable and transactional - should give the media planner enough complexity and opportunity without the need to encroach on other territories. If I were a client, I would find such duplication frustrating and counterproductive.

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