At its best, the planning dept should do strategy, the creative dept should do tactics.
Put simply, strategy is WHAT we do, tactics is HOW we do it.
Lazy planners will always default to ‘sell more’ as the goal, but that’s not a strategy.
I’m not talking about lazy planners, I’m talking about planners with the nous to redefine the goal.
A good example of this was John Lennon’s Double Fantasy album.
Lennon had been a ‘house-husband’ for a long time and hadn’t recorded anything.
After 5 years, he and Yoko spent a couple of months in a recording studio.
When word got out, major music companies tried to outbid each other for the rights.
Each of the massive labels, Sony, Universal, EMI, Warner, Polygram, tried to find exactly what Lennon wanted so they could promise him more of it.
But Lennon was elusive, he didn’t want to get involved with slick businessmen.
Meanwhile, David Geffen had launched his own record label, much smaller than the rest he couldn’t offer any of the incentives the giant labels could.
So, while they were fighting each other tactically, he thought strategically, he thought upstream.
He thought what does John Lennon care about that they’re all ignoring?
So Geffen didn’t even try to see Lennon, instead he went to see Yoko Ono, she was upset because none of the other labels had even contacted her.
Geffen had coffee with her and talked about her music that was also on the album.
He asked about the way she saw her tracks fitting alongside Lennon’s, the way they’d market the album with both of them on it.
She was thrilled someone treated her as a recording artist not just a wife in the background.
So at home, she spoke to Lennon, she said “John, you should really meet with David Geffen, he’s not just a slick businessman like the others.”
And Lennon listened to Yoko and met with Geffen instead of any of the other labels.
And Lennon signed to Geffen’s label to release his first album for five years.
It was massive news, but no one could work out why Lennon picked the smaller label instead of one of the huge ones.
The truth was Geffen thought strategically like a planner, but a creative planner.
The upstream strategy was thinking of Yoko in the first place.
Not doing what everyone else was doing, but doing something totally different.
I’ve seen real creative planning at work a few times.
Planning told us Fire-Prevention wasn’t about scaring people (as most ad agencies thought) it was about stopping the Fire-Brigade being called out.
So we did ads telling people how to put out fires, and callouts went down 40%.
Planning told us TVs weren’t just bought on picture quality (as most ad agencies thought) but on brand awareness.
So we did ‘Hello Tosh Gotta Toshiba’ and awareness went from 6% to 35%.
Planning told us white goods weren’t bought on features and gimmicks (as most ad agencies thought) but women wanted reliability.
So we did ‘Ariston and on and on and on”.
Planning told us new development areas weren’t just about families and leisure (as most ad agencies thought) but about business.
So for Docklands we did ‘Why Move to the Middle of Nowhere When You Can Move to the Middle of London’.
This is planners who understand the goal should be to change behaviour, not just lazy planners who always default to ‘brand’ without thinking.
I always saw the creative dept as troops and the planning dept as helicopters.
The helicopters, used properly, are the unfair advantage, they deliver the troops to the most effective place to do their job.
However good the troops are, the result is determined by putting them in the best place.
That’s why creativity starts in the planning dept.
Or it doesn’t.