Up-coming events for Autumn 2014

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APG Big Thinking on Strategy 2nd October. Tickets are selling fast. Check out the inner workings of Sir Lawrence Freedman’s brain on page 27 of today’s Media Guardian (yes, our ad actually shows a scan of what is happening in his brain when he’s thinking about strategy..) If you haven’t got a ticket to hear him and our other speakers yet, you can buy it here.

APG Noisy Thinking is back. We’re at Google again on 16th September and this time we’ll be asking the question: ‘Whatever happened to Brand Building?’ There’s an intellectually provocative speaker line-up including Alex Dunsdon of The Bakery
and Tess Alps of Thinkbox. As always, APG members are free and non-members are £25+vat. Get your ticket here. This APG event is held in association with Flamingo.

Can neuroscience help brands be more persuasive? is a new-style event. We will look into the impact of system 1 and system 2 thinking on how we choose and buy brands. Speakers are Phil Barden, author of ‘Decoded. The Science Behind Why We Buy’ and Sam Bompas, founder of Bompas & Parr who were in charge of the multi sensorial firework display on the South Bank at New year. They will delve into the science and magic of why we buy.

The date is 14th October and it will be held at Google. Get your ticket here £10+vat for members and £30+vat for non-members. Drinks, canapés and a free copy of ‘Decoded’ for every ticket holder. This APG event is held in association with design agency Coley Porter Bell.

APG Big Thinking on Strategy – 2nd October

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The APG is excited to announce details of our Strategy Conference for 2014: Big Thinking on Strategy: Where did it come from, and where is it going? We’re going to the heart of what we do to ask the Big Questions about Strategy. Tickets are available now and for members it is half price at £100.  Scroll down for details.

Our title speaker is Sir Lawrence Freedman, Professor of War Studies at Kings College London and author of the Financial Times book of the year for 2013: ‘Strategy: A History’.

Sir Lawrence will make the keynote address and give his view on the question of the origins of strategy, how it has been used over time and come to dominate so much of our life, and the implications for business and marketing now and in the future. Tracey Follows will chair the event.

Joining them on stage will be leading experts on strategy from closer to home, each addressing a different use or approach to strategy:

Adam Morgan on ‘strategy in the age of the unreasonable consumer’ presaging his much anticipated new book.

Guy Murphy on global strategy

Malcolm White
on the future of strategy

Ben Malbon on ‘strategy as doing’

Russell Davies on ‘Never mind the strategy, what about the strategists?’

Bridget Angear on strategy and effectiveness

Charity Charity on women and strategy

APG member tickets are half price at £100.  If you are not sure about your membership status please email lexi@apg.org.uk and she will check for you and renew your membership if necessary.

Non-member tickets are £200.  You can buy your tickets here  apgbigthinking.eventbrite.co.uk

The event will be held at the Purcell Room on the South Bank on 2nd October with a drinks reception afterwards and chance to meet and talk to the speakers.

APG Young Planners 19th March: should junior planners generalise or specialize?

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Young Planners 2014 kicked off last Wednesday at JWT. The event sold out fast (take note for future – get tickets early), with Neal Fairfield of BMB and David Hackworthy of Fallon giving us their two cents on the topic: should junior planners generalise their skills, or specialise?

First up: Pro-Specialism with David Hackhorthy

First up, David reminded us that you don’t need planners: they only exist to make the work better than it would be. And how should they best add value, in a post-digital world where the consumer does not need a voice anymore?

“30-40% of planners time is wasted”

David pointed out that agencies are made of teams, and those teams do particularly well when they have interesting alternative points of view. They can’t be expected to know everything well anyway: so specialisms are more valued.

“It’s fun to look at things with a bunch of people who look at things really differently”

For his strategy teams, David looks for juniors who can show him something that he doesn’t know – someone who opens his mind.

“I love it when a 23 year old planner can tell me I’m looking at something in the wrong way”

Next: Pro-generalism with Neal Fairfield

Neal made a valiant case for generalism, suggesting that hiding behind specialisms avoids learning about what planning really is – a continuous drive to find a better answer (whatever that answer is).

“Generalists can change the world – specialists can only perfect it”

If you’re a specialist, you are limited to only ever see the problem in terms of your specialism – or, to use an old adage, ‘to the man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail’.

“The blinkered person can’t see variables of which they aren’t aware”

A specialist will be half blind: he can’t predict things he knows nothing about. Generalists, on the other hand, can ask the right questions and not necessarily know the answer – but have the tools and the wherewithal to find out.

Both speakers were pretty clear that neither one nor the other is the absolute answer (classic planners). In fact, both our speakers suggested ‘a bit of both’ is where its at.

Our groups of Junior planners then discussed what that might mean for their day-to-day work, and the discussion afterwards brought out some useful tips:

Tips from the evening 

Pursue

  • “Always try to work across accounts and across categories, it will open your mind”
  • “Pitches are a great opportunity to learn from others”
  • “Be a generalist when it comes to ideas; be a specialist when it comes to people”
  • “Bite off more than you can chew, and keep chewing”

Avoid

  • “There’s nothing more dangerous than a weak generalist…”
  • “…but equally you don’t want to be that ‘car planner’ guy”
  • “Data is like teenage sex: no one knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it”
  • “Go with what you’re interested in – which is not necessarily always what you’re comfortable with”

In conclusion…

So, whilst cultivating specialism/s can bring value to your agency team and help get your foot in the door, you can be involved in interesting, revolutionary work by always being taking the generalist attitude.

Check out the best tweets from the evening here: http://storify.com/sweenagekicks/generalist-vs-specialist-apg-young-planners-19-03

Next one is due for June. Watch this space!

APGYP team

Unleash Your Inner Senior Planner: Find out more

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We’ve devised a new course, tutored by the best current practitioners, and designed to broaden the skill set of planners and strategists who are preparing for senior planner positions.  If you’re and ambitious and thoughtful strategist and your current role is a bit restrictive or specialist this could be the course for you. If you want to find out more here’s where to find the details

How to be a more Convincing and Persuasive Strategist: November 2014

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APG Strategic Story Telling: A new training course for Senior Planners and Strategists
This 3-day course is designed to hone the strategic skills of Planners who are already competent at developing strategy but want to polish and practice their skills and gain confidence in selling strategic proposals internally and to clients.  The focus is not on the principles of Strategic Thinking (which is the aim of a different APG course) but on the development, embellishment and effective communication of strategic thinking.

The course is being run in association with The Effectiveness Partnership and the tutors all have exceptional expertise and depth experience in their field.  The idea is to understand the principles of strategic storytelling in the three most important areas, and to put those principles into practice over the course leading to a live strategy presentation on the final afternoon.  Although the principles taught on the course will be very useful for writing awards papers the intention is to help you bring strategic thinking to life in client presentations, written documents, new business and on-going meetings.

It breaks down strategy into three essential aspects:

Day 1- Strategy using more effective numbers: How to use convincing data to root your strategy in a business case, how to find and use numbers to generate strategic insights and how to use data visualization to bring your argument to life and sell your strategy as a clear, concise and visual story.

Day 2 – Strategy using more effective words: Understanding how to take the successful elements of story telling and use them to your advantage, how to give your strategic story interest and momentum, and how to use compression, sign posting, tone and style to deliver it successfully.  This is about articulating your strategy as a simple, compelling story.

Day 3 – Strategy using more effective delivery and presentation: Understanding the techniques and approaches of professional presenters and actors to deliver your presentation in the most powerful way.  This is all about how you perform – body language, diction, using pace and energy, and responding to an audience.  There will be practice and feedback, individually and in teams.

The course consists of three discrete one day sessions but each delegate will work with a single issue or area for which there is plenty of supporting data (these will be provided) and build their strategic presentation on that theme over the course of the 3 days.

There will be a final presentation to a panel of APG judges at the end of the 3 day session.

Please go here for more detailed description of the content for each day session.

This course is suitable for planners and strategists from all kinds of communications agency, research companies, media agencies or client companies.  You will probably have a minimum of 3 to 5 years experience making strategic recommendations internally and to clients.  You may well have attended the APG’s Strategic Thinking course run by Merry Baskin.  If you would like to discuss the suitability of this course for your needs please call the APG on 0208 8580707 or email sarahnewman@apg.org.uk

The course will take place on a Wednesday over 3 sequential weeks in November. The idea is to give plenty of in-depth coaching and help but minimize the time delegates spend out of the office in any given week.

As this is a new course we will be offering it at a trial price of  £1200 plus VAT per delegate.

In subsequent iterations the price is likely to rise as it is a 3 day course

The course has been developed jointly by the APG and The Effectiveness Partnership.

APG Noisy Thinking – What makes a good brief?

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APG Noisy Thinking: ‘What makes a good brief?’ Tuesday 18th March

This event sold out very quickly. We are operating a waitlist for members so if you have a member ticket and can’t make it, please do let us know so that we can release it for someone else to use.  Details and tickets are to be found here

What makes a good brief? Is it different from what made a good brief 30 years ago when the communications landscape was so much simpler?  And if it is, why has the basic structure and form of the brief evolved so little?  We will ask whether the brief is a dodo, or a testament to an enduring set of principles about how communications work.

Or is it all about the briefing, an iterative, evolving process of teamwork? Are we giving creative people the tools and inspiration they need to create great ideas in a continuously evolving media landscape?  Are we talking to ourselves?  We’ve got a top creative and a couple of top planners to shed some light.

David Hackworthy, CSO of Fallon, Craig Mawdsley, Joint CSO of AMVBBDO and Thiago de Moraes, ECD of Droga5 will be asking these hard questions and some more too – and they’ll have some answers that will make you think and reassess.

APG Noisy Thinking will be taking place 6pm on Tuesday 18th at March at Google.

If you are an APG member you are eligible for free entry (and we’ll check to make sure that your membership is up to date).  If you are not a member tickets cost £25 plus VAT.

Noisy Thinking is in association with Flamingo

APG Noisy Thinking on Insights: Jon Leach and Google

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Below is Jon Leach’s perspective, and here is what Google made of Insights https://www.google.co.uk/think/articles/what-is-an-insight.html

1.    Tracey Follows of JWT spoke of “noticing when you are noticing” and in particular slowly realizing that you are dealing with a “weird kind of normal” (CF Gilbert and George, Seinfeld) that might be of some use.
This realization comes from your brain trying to extract meaning from this odd mix of weird      and normal.  Often (cf Seinfeld) this realization feels literally funny.
The advice, by implication, is to operate in zone that is clearly not normal but is not so detached from reality to be silly.  I think I concur.  (Or at least, start at silly and work back until it starts to feel interesting/useful).


2.    Andy Davidson of Flamingo had insight as “a disturbance in the discourse” (i.e. the normal way of talking/thinking about things is thrown off course). He had some interesting “don’ts” that I think I agree with…
-    Don’t pursue truth (its often boring, or done, or undisruptive)
-    (n.b. the interesting, odd stuff can become “true” in time, a theme others would talk to…)
-    Don’t start from consumers (at least their normal behaviour)
-    You don’t always need to go deep – going sideways for perspective may be better.
-    Beware the monolithic insight !(others picked up on this later)
Wherever you go (similarly to Tracy) you will know the feeling when “the discourse is disturbed”. I think he might have been the one who mentioned stand-up comedians who deliberately disrupt things and then explore this new imagined world. Laughter is kind of obvious, when it happens. You don’t need to define it. Just explore…


3.    Nick Hirst of Dare had a bit of a go about insights as we often work with them. He argues that a classic, modern insight often…
-    Doesn’t allow complexity (too singular)
-    Doesn’t allow change (too fixed, monolithic)
-    Can be used too literally in charmless advertising
-    Is obsessed over for its own sake (we obsess over form, forgetting function…)
-    Can favour novelty over being right (cf revelations)
-    Claims too much of a role in the process (often the execution is where the magic is)
-    Assumes too much importance (sometimes needs are marginal)
So he recommended coming back to talking about “needs” (or thinking of “user needs” in a web experience way).
The advantage of this is that some needs aren’t new (cf Facebook), some needs can be multiple (eg websites) and needs can change.


4.    David Wilding of PHD presented something that looked a lot like a model I often use:
-    Issue (I have “Inputs”)
-    Insight (snap!)
-    Idea (snap!)
-    Implementation (I have “infilling”; his is better!)
For him (us both) the insight acts a bridge between the issue/inputs and the idea. (On my model, nicked from Gary Duckworth?, the idea is pivotal; the bit that really matters…)
He went on to say that the insight could be understood in retrospect as “why we did what we did” or going forwards, it’s the thing that tells us “why we are doing what we are doing”.
This does remind me that often a planner’s job is to post-rationalise/explain/sell other people’s thinking.  We are the link between art and commerce, often.

5.    Caitlin Ryan of Karmarama brought it back to what I think stops us losing perspective on all this i.e. that an insight is there to help the creative team/dept. in some way (it’s an idea that gets you to The Idea)
She observed that while a vigorously distilled insight was reassuringly black and white to a client, creatives normally prefer a bit of grey.
In particular she observed that CREATIONIST creatives aiming at a perfect concept, born behind closed doors, perhaps expressed in advertising, and might like a perfect “thing to say” (i.e a classic insight). But a more EVOLUTIONARY creative, perhaps working in a more digital or social medium, with feedback from data, adapting an idea over time, and thinking about brand behavior…. might prefer something less “locked in” and more mercurial.  So how can planning help, is the question…


6.    John Griffiths had the speediest but most brilliantly dense talk. The main thing I took out of it is that insights are not singularities but things that occur all along the food chain in different forms. Wow – a real insight about how insights work….
 So they start “out there” in consumer land (unknown and undescribed, but we know they’re there
They are tracked down and found (by a “barefoot researcher”, John hopes) and passed on as a “finding” in a research report or debrief.
Then they are (hopefully) added in as “knowledge” where they are combined with other things the agency/client already knows {to me this is the classic, codified “insight” that the other speakers were referring to, or indeed criticizing: but this is just one version of the whole thing!}
Then (importantly, if they really are to have value) they get assimilated as “culture” where they just become part of normal behaviour and decision making because “we all know that”.
Finally, either when they no longer work or new, better ones come along and supplant them, they die and are discarded.
It’s a Circle of Life kind of thing!
Fascinating. Brilliant. Stealable…
As a fishing metaphor the chain goes:
-    Ecosystem-Fish-Food-Energy-Dissipation
What I found good about all this is it reveals where they really exist, what we as marketing types do with them and what they are ultimately for (energy).  They also can’t really be “mined” as they are much more memetic than that (is that a word? I mean “having the properties of memes”).
Finally John offered  another brilliant insight (!) as to what agencies actually do : we provide the energy; we are in the energy business,  whereas marketing clients create the infrastructure/buy-in that turns the insights/energy into business processes and commercial scale that delivers the big returns (as he put it, they are in the momentum business).
Onto questions: I asked that if the word “strategy” came from military culture, where did they think “insight” had emerged from (we didn’t use “Insight” as a word much in the 80’s and 90’s)? The first answer was it was a psychological term about discovering the deep “inner mind” that consumers are unaware of but professionals can find. Sounds about right… Tracy also offered that it in part refers to some fantastical, witchcrafty, magical discovery, which was a good reminder to chase the magic not just do the analysis.
I can’t remember the questions but I also jotted down:
-    “Insights can be embarrassing. It’s often really obvious” (so true)
-    From JG, as an example of a good one from the tech sector: “They’re not IT Networks, they‘re people Networks” (see point above)
-    And “what’s the biggest lie you could tell? And work back from there” as a way to get to them  (cf comedians)
Tracey closed with asking “why are we doing what we are doing”.  I can’t remember the answers but for me we were (either) all there engaging in collectively justifying our fragile existence as planners in the value chain, or (less cynically) we are all engaged in an arms race where we are all trying to make the biggest possible difference somewhere along the CLIENT –IDEA—CONSUMER chain.
Those planners (and their agencies) who do “this insight thing” best will win. And that’s why were there – we all need to keep sharpening our insight blades. In which case we were all well served by these six insight maestros….

What is an Insight? The APG in combative and revelatory mode

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Last night the APG brought together six of the industry’s best minds to answer the question: ‘What is an insight?’ From poptarts to the importance of truth, we covered the lot and all left enlightened, wondering how our agencies would change their briefing template, and a little merry from the bevvies kindly supplied by Google (thank you!).

First up was the APG’s newly appointed Chairwoman and CSO of JWT London, Tracey Follows. Tracey began by sharing her view that an insight is not how it is often described; a flash of inspiration or a revelation depicted by the light bulb. It’s a much slower process. Her argument further described an insight as

not just the result of noticing something (presumably this is purely an observation) but, contrastingly, it’s in the noticing that you’re noticing that the insight is formed. It’s easy to see the similarities between this description and the regularly quoted definition of consciousness as ‘awareness of awareness’.

Is an insight the product of consciousness? This all left me wondering whether a commission was on the cards for a new APG logo and what, if anything, could graphically convey this description of insight?

Tracey went on to talk about the artists Gilbert and George who noticed that all other artists were tended to be weird to the point where they weren’t being allowed to dine in restaurants. To avoid this, they consciously decided to be normal. In doing so, they found that they became ‘so normal that it was a bit strange’ leading them to define their identity as ‘weird normal’. Tracey proposed that using “weird-normal” to unlock creativity makes original thought possible. She pointed to echoes of this in Lewis Carroll’s premise of “looking for meaning in the unfamiliar” and many popular TV show’s interplay of weird and normal such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld. With both of these programmes, it’s the juxtaposition of normalness and weirdness that make you laugh. As Seinfeld states in his ‘anatomy of the poptart joke’ (http://youtu.be/itWxXyCfW5s) video, “the wronger something is, the righter it is”. I hope that in using this line of thinking our industry can use more “weird-normal” to make more interesting work.

Our second speaker was Andy Davidson from Flamingo who believes that our lack of understanding of insight is holding us back. We can only hope that after last night this is no longer the case. His analogy was to describe laughter (spontaneous sounds and movements of the face and body) as the same as describing an insight: unbefitting for such an emotional and intangible thing. The one definition Andy did land on was as ‘an insight as a disturbance in discourse’; using Persil’s Dirt is Good campaign as an example of how ‘dirt’ disturbed the pre-existing discourse of whiter than white whiteness. He argued that in finding these disturbances we are able to express what was previously inexpressible. Andy’s next, and most contentious point, stated that ‘the truth is less important than you think’.

When working with a category that has been around for donkey’s years, you’re unlikely to find a novel insight. Equally, the competition will already have it; it sends you down the wrong track and makes you believe what comes out of people’s mouths in research. I would argue that by making this point, Andy wasn’t actually discrediting the ‘truth’ but actually what research participants falsely believe and convey as the truth. An alternative way of mining insights, he argued, was to imagine what would be really interesting if it were true and then think about the context that would have to exist in order for it to be true. Additionally, insights do not necessarily come from consumers; so he suggested looking at packaging, competitors, and other places. Andy’s final frustration was with the obsession with ‘depth’ of an insight; as if it comes from only the darkest subconscious of consumer’s minds. This, he argued, is problematic and exemplified by the small box on the brief that requires the deep, pithy insight. To counter this, he proposed the simply giving creatives several inspiring thoughts and working together to investigate the merits and creative opportunities of each.

Nick Hirst from Dare followed on almost seamlessly from Andy by highlighting

that insights, as they are currently used, do not allow for change. We use them too literally; obsess over their form; and value ‘new’ over ‘right. We seek a ‘revelatory quality’ in our insights – and much in line with Tracey’s argument, this isn’t necessarily an indicator of what will lead to the best work. We have become slaves to their form, and we assume that insights are essential. As an alternative, we may be better off to simply sell a generic benefit in a new way or look for a need, rather than an insight.

Unlike insights, ‘needs’ need a solution. They give your brand a right to talk to people and interrupt their lives. Equally, needs aren’t always new, and that’s OK. The need for Facebook, for example, wasn’t new. It was simply a new solution to an age-old need for human interaction (or maybe just being nosy). Needs can also change over time. For example, a 17-year-old’s need for a car may differ drastically from his need if he finds himself with a wife and three children one day. So forget insight, figure out the needs and you’ll always be relevant and useful.

Our fourth speaker, David Wilding from PHD gave the media perspective  started off with a bit of self-deprecation, light-hearted-insult, and comedy (which I unfortunately cannot do justice in this write-up).  He then went on, like Nick, to state that we have fetishised the insight and that the old form of: ‘Issue, Insight, Idea, Implementation’ could be re-written to: ‘Background, Why we did what we did, What we did, Results’. In re-defining an insight as ‘the thing that tells us why we’re doing what we’re doing or did what we did’ we don’t need to worry if it’s too obvious.

Caitlin Ryan of Karmarama was up next to represent the creative position on ‘insight’, reflecting Nick’s view that often insights are very black and white and set in stone. She said that for a creative, you often get better work if there is flexibility within the insight. Caitlin went on to categorise creative people as either creationists or evolutionists. The former tend to be more traditional creatives who like to work with an insight to craft a perfectly formed concept. Contrastingly, she defined herself as an evolutionist creative who likes to use insights from data to evolve creative work over time. Like Andy’s she argued that insights can develop and change. She went on to describe the benefit of data over instinct as driving brands to act, rather than just communicate. Using the analogy of the comedian who stands on stage and says ‘I’m funny’ versus the one who stands on stage and tells jokes, Caitlin again echoed Nick’s view that the power of finding needs for brands to actively address, whilst championing a ‘do, don’t tell’ philosophy.

Our final speaker for the evening was the Barefoot Insighter, John Griffiths, who was the only one to stick to the pecha kucha challenge and deliver his 18 slides in 20 seconds each (owing to my significant lack of notes, for which I apologise). John began by likening insights to bubbles in coca cola: you cannot predict where they will show up even though you know that they will. John’s main point of view was that it is not enough just to know your consumers to develop insights that lead to effective communication. It is also vital that you have an understanding of the organisation and broader context.  John’s talk was so fast and furious you need to watch it to it justice.  His and those of the other speakers will shortly be available on our YouTube channel @apglondon.

Overall, a lively evening with surprising consistency of views about ‘the insight’ as a term that possibly drastically limits the output of our work.

 

Charlotte Cramer – Planner JWT

 

Noisy Thinking is in association with Flamingo

Tracey Follows on West Wing Planning and the Influential Idea

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This is the text of Tracey’s article that appeared in Campaign on 23rd January
In Adam Morgan’s Foreward to the APG Creative Strategy Awards in 2013, he draws a distinction between two types of planning: Washington Planning and Hollywood Planning. The analogy comes from when he asked his two boys one day: ‘what is the capital of America?’. One answered Washington and the other said Hollywood. As he points out, both were equally right, in different ways.

The same is true of planning, he suggests. Washington Planning is the rigorous authoritative, category-centric, consumer-closeness approach that often delivers long-term effectiveness; and Hollywood Planning is the radical, culturally-conscious, category-busting approach that attempts to grab our attention in ways we didn’t see coming. As Morgan points out, these two different models currently co-exist.

One might say that duality has always existed in planning: the role for planners under Stephen King was that of ‘grand strategists’ focused on the building of brands, whilst BMP planning was more centred around the creative idea and its iteration through continual consumer research.

There has never been one view of planning and there never will be. But I do think it is helpful to try to fuse the best of Washington with the best of Hollywood to create something closer to the West Wing. That is to say that we can aim for technologically rich ideas that are also proven to be hugely influential amongst mainstream audiences.

We have of late seen various awards and adulation paid to the novelty idea or execution. It may be smart, it may be interesting. It may even be original (check Youtube) But will it make a blind bit of difference to anyone’s behavior beyond the pavement cafes of the advertising village? Or to put it another way, can planning be at once both rigorous and radical?

Like any good brief, we should start with the outcome. What is the outcome we want from planning, as an industry, as a discipline, as a practice? I would argue that we want planning to bring about as much influence as possible in the world of creative ideas. We want planning to demonstrate how it makes all the difference in the world between what is an interesting idea and what becomes an influential idea. In fact in my view, it is now the role of the planner to take an idea that is merely interesting and make it influential.

The truth is that the core skill of the planner is in persuasion. Particularly if it is true that in any scenario in which you find yourself , 20% of people are with you; 20% of people are against you; and the remaining 60% are persuadable either way. It is our job to persuade. Planners can’t choose which idea is presented to the client, and planners can’t make a client approve it, but planners can persuade the entire agency team of the right strategic direction over and above all other alternatives, and we can also persuade the client that there are better ways than others to achieve a particular result. An interesting idea may be inherently interesting to 20% of your audience; the planner needs to shift that to 80%.

To that end, the APG will be focusing on training that helps nurture and develop persuasiveness in planners. One of the APG’s best-attended courses is ‘Holding Your Own With Senior Clients’ and we will be building on this theme throughout the year. An understanding of your audience as much as your idea, is at the heart of many a successful strategy, pitch or presentation.

Later in the year we will be staging an Audience with Sir Lawrence Freedman, the author of ‘Strategy: A History’. The book is a tour de force in strategy and its importance across business, politics, the military and even primate groups. The core issue at the heart of strategy, the author notes, is whether it is possible to manipulate and shape our environment rather than simply become the victim of forces beyond one’s control. One might call that being ‘influential with your ideas’.

Craig Mawdsley, as the previous APG Chair over the last two years has done a wonderful job of getting the planning community to approach planning through the lens of innovation, now it is the role of the APG to ensure that innovative ideas are also influential in the broader sense – reaching bigger and bigger audiences with even better and brighter ideas than ever before. Our industry is at its very best when it is democratizing niche ideas for the benefit of the many – helping to “push the human race forward” as one of the greatest strategists ever, once said.

The planner’s role is no longer to be the voice of the consumer. Through social media, the consumer has found their own voice, and they make it heard, directly and in real-time. The truth is that the real core skill of planners today lies in persuasion. And in that sense we can see that over the years planning has changed almost entirely, and yet, hardly at all.

Tracey Follows is Chief Strategy Officer of JWT London and APG Chair.

Craig Mawdsley announces Tracey Follows as new APG Chair

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As 2014 dawns, my two year tenure as Chair of APG draws to an end and a lot has changed. It was time for the APG to wake up, get more professional and set the Planning agenda once more.

We’ve always been respected for our training and we’re doing more than ever. We have doubled our membership to well over 1,000 planners and thinkers, we’ve staged two memorable strategy conferences and our Noisy Thinking evenings are an immediate sell-out.

The APG is once again a vibrant and dynamic organisation that people are keen to join, and I’m proud to have played my part in it.

All in all the APG is in rude health, which is always the best time for a shake up and a change.

So, it’s time to welcome the new Chair of the APG for 2014 and 2015, Tracey Follows, Chief Strategy Officer of JWT

I’ve known Tracey for over 10 years and found her to be inspiring, creative, intellectually rigorous and innovative in equal measure.

She’s known the APG from the inside out for the last couple of years, as Treasurer and Vice Chair, so she will hit the ground running.

Very few in her position have such a rounded view of the future of planning, not just the present of planning.

And that’s exactly what the APG needs for the next couple of years, as we help you invent the future of planning and strategy.

But enough from me.

It’s time for Tracey to work with Sarah and the team and take the APG forward.

Craig Mawdsley, APG Chair
Joint Chief Strategy Officer, AMV BBDO
mawdsleyc@amvbbdo.com

Noisy Thinking 2014: What is an insight? 4th February @ Google HQ

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We are gearing up to deliver a full programme of events in 2014.  Our popular Noisy Thinking evenings begin again on the 4th February with: ‘What is an insight?’

Speakers including Tracey Follows, David Wilding, John Griffiths and Nick Hirst , And Davidson and Caitlin Ryan will inaugurate the 2014 series.  Tickets will be available shortly on eventbrite.

Noisy Thinking dates for the year are:  March 18th, May 20th, June 17th, September 18th and November 18th so clear your diaries for a year of piercing strategic and other thinking.

Noisy Thinking is presented once again in association with our partner Flamingo and all the evenings will be held at Google.

We will also be holding a Strategy Event later in the year similar to our previous Worlds Collide events but with a new twist, and a Planning Careers Day.  Dates and details to be announced later in January.

 

Farewell to Craig Mawdsley

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Thank you, members and supporters, sponsors and trainers, helpers and cheerleaders, for all your enthusiastic engagement with the APG this year.  It’s been busy.  We’ve moved house to Greenwich, said goodbye to the lovely Steve Martin, pulled together a new APG team, increased our membership to well over 1,000 strategic souls, convened numerous excellent training courses, launched and awarded the 2013 APG Creative Strategy Awards in association with Google, pondered Noisily on stages around London, and watched Worlds Collide once again at our strategy conference on the South Bank.  So a big thank you to all – and especially to Alison and Emily here at APG Towers – for making it all happen.

There is one other thank you which is particularly personal to me, and that I would like to make on behalf of you all.  Craig Mawdsley has been the Chair of the APG for almost two years, and steps down from this role as December draws to a close.  We could not have wished for a wiser, more intelligent, and thoughtful person at the helm.  Craig has led a year of (in APG terms) momentous change, and has been consistently inventive, decisive and unflappable.  Even when immersed in the most demanding of pitches or planning the Xmas campaign of the year for Sainsbury’s he’s always made himself available when needed and never failed to give fair and thoughtful advice, spiced with his special brand of extra dry humour. 

Cyclist, culture vulture, comic enthusiastic, witty convener of our regular Noisy Thinking events, Grand Prix winner extraordinaire and once again Campaign’s Magazine’s number 1 Planner, this is one Renaissance Man.  We toast you.  We will miss you.

The new Chair of the APG will be announced early this month.  Watch this and other spaces….
 

 

 

 

Sharpen your Strategic Thinking Skills

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Start the new year as you mean to continue.  Whatever your title, if your job means that you are required to think strategically about brands or communications this may the course for you.  It’s two days of intensive theory, practice and lot of interaction, and is consistently rated as excellent by those who go on it: ‘Brilliantly useful.  I have come away with some excellent tools and feel a lot more confident‘ – Digital Planner ‘Fantastic range of approaches to planning delivered in a very open and informative way’ – Planner  ‘Brilliant!  Worth flying in from Singapore to attend it.’  ‘I found this course wonderfully helpful and liberating…it takes a big, scary concept and makes it really approachable’ – Media Planner

APG Strategic Thinking is running at the end of mid February and again in March in central London.  If you would like to book a place please contact alison@apg.org.uk