Neil Walker is not your typical Plannertarium attendee.
Neither a TV planner nor buyer, his digital background made him something of a wildcard at last year's event. For as the branded content director for Newcast, ZenithOptimedia's non-traditional solutions division, his remit has been to handle non-traditional, digital projects. But as Walker happily admits, attending The Plannertarium gave him a fresh perspective on the use of TV and changed the way he works.
Rory Sutherland was part of the speaker line-up in 2009 and it was his talk that particularly resonated with Walker. "A point Rory made was that to be creative with media today does not necessarily have to begin and end with a microsite, Facebook page or iPhone app; traditional media, such as TV, could be creatively used too. Having grown up in the digital department, it was an idea both radical and yet completely obvious; Rory's speech expressed a feeling I'd had for some time - that when media people decide to get creative, it's the digital space we turn to first," he explains.
"The Plannertarium showed me that you can be creative in television and you can reach this huge audience that you'd have to work incredibly hard and be very lucky to get in, say, digital. Rory talked about TV feeling big and looking big, so when you spend money on TV, your audience is impressed by the scale of it. Then people naturally think it must be a powerful and important product because it can afford to spend money on TV; it's not going to be here today and gone tomorrow," Walker says.
Coincidentally, while Walker was attending last year's event he was also signing off his part of a TV deal that has proved to be a shining example of creative use of TV.
"We were putting pen to paper on the O2 Hollyoaks deal for the launch of Load & Go, a 'fun money' card aimed at teenagers. In Channel 4's own words: 'The daddy of all contextual advertising campaigns.' It was apparent then, listening to The Plannertarium speakers, and even more so now, having seen the impact that the campaign had, that no medium other than TV could have delivered the campaign. Nothing else could have achieved the scale," Walker recalls.
Indeed, last year's event had such an impact on Walker that it has directly led to him creating solutions involving TV, where previously he might not have done. "In certain cases, I have turned digital briefs into TV solutions."
The clearest example of this in action has been for the sports brand Puma. This work combines online and press ads with TV spots to create a campaign aimed at engaging Sunday League football players.
"We wanted to do something with Sky Sports and so we've got users to send in images of themselves playing football. The best will get into one of our TV spots, which will feature in all the really big Sky Sports games in Sky Pub. We dominate a break using blipverts so the TV is both crowdsourced and ad break-dominating. You still buy 30 seconds, but rather than taking it all at the front, middle or end, you have five seconds so you just chop the threeor four-minute ad break up in a slightly different way," Walker says.
"So if the user sends in a picture that's good enough, they'll be a blipvert and we'll send them an e-mail saying: 'Thanks for your picture, you're in this game, make sure you see it down the pub with all your mates.
"We're spending what is really a digital budget on TV; we've managed to find a way to make it work using television that doesn't mean we spend a lot of money but makes it feel huge."
So despite him not fitting the typical Plannertarium attendee profile, Walker found the event an inspiring experience. He urges others to apply for this year's event - even if, like him, they don't fall into the typical categories.
"Being neither a planner nor a buyer, I was on the outside but I think it was a sensible thing to do. Ideas can start in many different places," he concludes.
1. You'll hear really heavyweight speakers that you wouldn't normally get access to.
2. You'll get to present in front of them, which is a rare opportunity.
3. It's a whole bunch of planners and buyers away for a night in a five-star hotel with effectively a free bar; take the next morning off.
Inspiring speakers, the brightest agency stars, five-star luxury - just a few of the things you might experience at The Plannertarium on 15 July this year. Stay at home, however, and you'll miss out. To apply for a place, log on to www.channel4sales.com/theplannertarium, and, once there, answer a few easy questions. The deadline's Friday 14 May 2010. To get you in the mood, read Channel 4's new Planet Blog at www.mediaweek.co.uk/planetblog.