By Janaina Scalise   Advertising is full of quotes about ‘breaking the rules’, ‘thinking outsid...

It's time to modernise planning, but are planners capable of breaking their own rules ?

By Janaina Scalise 
 Advertising is full of quotes about ‘breaking the rules’, ‘thinking outside the box’ and ‘being innovative’. Our industry, however, struggles to actually apply this thinking. It’s a behaviour that needs to change.
Planners from all over the world have been discussing the same things for years, but only a few have really broken the rules in regards to:
-      Creative Briefs Templates
-      Briefing Sessions
-      Comms Planning Framework
-      Process
-      Clarity on roles & responsibilities
-      Presentations
-      Reporting
-      The planning function
-      The role of traditional research
-      The effectiveness of social media metrics
…and the list goes on.
Imagine if more planners were willing to break the rules when it came to process. Imagine if more rules were broken in regards to diversity – how many of us have actually hired someone with a less privileged background, or someone that has been in prison but would like a chance to start again. I see agencies and planners sharing a hundred different thoughts, but I don’t see actions. Job titles, functions, our intellectual backgrounds – these processes are so deeply ingrained in advertising culture that it’s hard to see the light end of the tunnel.
An industry that claims to understand human behaviour seems to be incapable of understanding and changing their own. How contradictory.
Imagine if planners focussed less on how smart they were and more on the importance of changing the way we work.
Admit it. Chances are you’re no smarter than anyone else – you’re just well-considered, probably with an interest in culture, psychology, trust your gut instinct. But we can’t achieve the best possible outcomes if there isn’t input from a diverse range others. No one can.
Why do only creatives work in teams? Surely examples like this are enough for us to acknowledge the importance of collaborative culture.
Creative ideas come to life with the help of an art director, a copywriter, a designer, an editor, a Creative Director, etc, etc. Why then, should an entire strategy come from just one person? How can strategists come up with innovative insights while sat on their own putting a presentation together? Creatives know that their work requires many brainstorm sessions, time (quite a lot of it), and people who are happy to help them out at every step of the process. Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with that. But have one little thing to add.
Agencies should function as one big team, helping each other regardless of job title. Accounts, media, community managers, strategists, designers – everyone would benefit from true collaboration. After all, we’re all responsible for achieving something truly great and remarkable. We all make the credits list, right?
In a world full of strategists with all sort of different skills, it has become harder and harder to achieve the best results if only one strategist is responsible for the entire strategy. One strategist alone won’t:
-      Identify the business problem
-      Do all the research
-      Analyse data
-      Write an inspiring creative brief
-      Have enough expertise to help a creative team build on the idea, making it truly relevant to consumers
-      Be tactical to discuss what is possible, what isn’t, where and how ideas should be executed
-      Have great media knowledge
-      Have understanding of the online community
-      Be as good as community managers
-      Write an action brief
-      Make sure comms strategy is in place
-      Have a killer understanding of KPIs, reporting, metrics, measurement tools
…and the list goes on.
I can wear some hats, but not a hundred. No one can.
Perhaps at bigger agencies you have people to do each of the tasks listed above, but most smaller agencies doesn’t have that luxury. Even if we did, true collaboration would still be key.
And that’s why at Gravity Thinking, the more we analyse the different hats a strategist is expected to wear, the more we realise the importance of REALLY breaking the rules and changing the way planners work. We are taking action, ACTION. We are in favour of planners working in pairs or even on what we have coined a ‘cabal’; a small team made up of strategists, creatives and community managers responsible for a smooth process. It’s a way of working wherein we have more knowledge from the start and less layers of bureaucracy, ego or traditions that prevent the creative process from being truly effective and nimble.
Since we implemented the ‘cabals’, we’ve seen some amazing results, some of which you can see here. Most of the work was completed thanks to tremendous collaboration from everyone in the cabal team. For example, I’ve recently worked side by side with our designer, Joana Couto, to figure out the best way to approach a UX task since it’s not my field of expertise. The brief was completed in less than 30 minutes and was exactly what Jo needed. From the moment she realised she could really count on me, even if that meant bouncing simple ideas off each other, the work was done very quickly. It was a smooth and enjoyable process, plus I learned some new skills from her.
Why don’t you give it a go?
On the 20th of September, I went to an APG talk called “Think Like a CSO” and the guests were Charlie, Chief Strategy Officer and Anna, Head of Strategy, at MullenLowe. I’m so pleased to have attended because they discussed their agency process and their belief in pairing planners to get better briefs and as a result, more creative and effective ideas. Anna said that this new way of working has already proven to be successful, as they have been seeing bigger and braver ideas that can morph into different shapes and spaces – needed today! They too believe that Planning, as a function, still suffers a bit of a hangover from how planners used to be “A bit too slow. A bit too intellectual. More interested in strategy than creative zest”.
MullenLowe, we are with you on this one. ACTUALLY breaking the rules and challenging an industry that are otherwise ignoring their own needs.

We are proud and delighted to be presenting on the main stage @SMWLDN on how we are helping our ...

Uncanny Valley - our talk @smwldn 13th September

We are proud and delighted to be presenting on the main stage @SMWLDN on how we are helping our Clients avoid falling into 'Uncanny Valley' 
The talk will focus on the rapidly evolving nature of technology has resulted in a new connected society where social media has given people a bigger share of voice in the conversation. This has fundamentally changed the relationship between people and brands, there is now an expectation of transparency and brands need to talk to people as people.
The problem is that social channels are intrinsically human and brands struggle to define how they should communicate resulting in either a confusing schizophrenic personality or at worst – through the use of bots – where very few of the important human personality traits are displayed. This means they create a sense of unease and often end up in ‘uncanny valley’ as they forget all people aren’t the same and they adapt to speak to different people in different ways. Discovering a clear multi-dimensional brand personality allows them to differentiate and creates a foundation that allows brands to escape ‘uncanny valley’ and unlock the potential of social media.
Using practical examples, data including IBM Watson and Crimson Hexagon and psychology techniques, brands can evaluate what type of ‘human’ people think they really are and what personality traits their communications portray. We will then show how we decide what type of human a brand wants to be and the implications this has for all technology led communications.
Speakers will be:
Martyn Gooding – Creative Director, Gravity Thinking
Michaela MacIntyre – Business Director Gravity Thinking
Adam Nickson, Marketing and Communications Director, Hyundai Motor Company UK

By Jane Hovey Head of Planning  As a child back in the day I remember complaining to my dad t...

Should I hire a robot for my Strategy Department?

By Jane Hovey Head of Planning 

As a child back in the day I remember complaining to my dad that a simple program I had written on the ZX Spectrum displayed red instead of my favourite 80’s shade of magenta. Rather than sharing my frustration he simply pointed out that it was my very human error. This years APG conference was excellent and thought provoking as always but speakers seemed to treat robots (and tech) like something sent down from Mars HG Wells style, not something we can be involved in creating, programming or developing.
The conference designed to spark debate occasionally felt schizophrenic with Steve Hilton’s opposition to smart phones for himself and his kids seeming at odds with his and his wife’s successful tech careers. What excited me most (like many) was Russell Davis centaur chess analogy touching on the need for robots and strategists or organizations and tech to find better ways of working together. Tech can be bad for people — the effect on children building relationships is a good example but it can also be marvelous — connecting communities making people feel less isolated, freeing time and highlighting social issues. Occasionally the APG can feel like the ad industry playing catch up seeing technology as something to do battle with, something ‘other’.
From exploring how to garner big brand insights from social listening or how to look at brands using IBM Watson planners need to embrace technology now. But we also need to start thinking about what we as a planning community need. What are the problems humans need help to solve. As good planners we need to stay ‘curious’ about new developments knowing how to use them to add the magic. Taking insights and data, inspiration from art, observed human behaviour and a good dollop of imagination to take strategic leaps might not be something robots can do in my lifetime but they might help us get to better solutions. As a consumer I don’t like buying washing powder so I am not scared of bots choosing it but in other categories I care a lot and will always be involved. So in the same vain I need to work out what I want tech to do for me and what needs human involvement.
Embracing tech could mean one day having a robot in the team. A robot now could take some of the guesswork out, to focus on some of the detail that is occasionally lost, to optimize and find new inspiration…to make connections and point out when the obvious is being suggested to look at the wider communications landscape, nuanced influences and more detailed customer journeys. In the future planning could use robots to mimic the consumer so we understand audiences needs better or to look at how a brands personality would play out if made into a sentient being — how cool would that be…
I would be happy to have a robot in the team if we worked with them collaboratively. Helping the agency be braver, more creative and solve clients business problems like all the planners I hire.

By Andrew Roberts, Managing Partner On 17th May we were invited by our friends at Immediate Medi...

Social Media can Change the World - A talk at Immediate Media Cycling Conference

By Andrew Roberts, Managing Partner

On 17th May we were invited by our friends at Immediate Media to speak to over 100 of their cycling contacts at The Bath Spa Hotel in Bath England.

With a mix of brands, retailers and partners we presented a provocative call to arms to get involved in social and provided 5 key principles for making social work in the Sports industry along with best in class examples including our very own Allianz 'Pass Round the World'
See the whole presentation here:

By Andrew Roberts Originally published in The Drum “ Live as if you were to die tomorrow. L...

SXSW: The festival that's good for the soul of marketers

By Andrew Roberts
Originally published in The Drum

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” 

Gandhi’s quote sums up the last five days at SXSW. I left inspired, enlightened, enthused and educated, if slightly broken. 

It was time well spent, time that was good for the soul.

SXSW is called a festival rather than a conference precisely for the reason that you can make of it what you wish. Like the host city’s mantra “Keep Austin weird", there are no rules or preconceived routes to follow – you follow your own path and make of it what you want.

We spent five days doing precisely that, wandering, feeling our way through the many different experiences that were on offer. From keynotes to panels (OK less of them) to meet-ups and interactive installations, all designed to stretch the mind to start thinking of the many possibilities that tech has created.

And this openness is the beauty of the whole event.

There will be many articles on the details of the various talks, demos and take outs, indeed I am speaking at an event with The Drum Network on what we found ‘off the beaten track’  but my overriding feeling leaving Austin this morning was how the festival feeds the soul.
So how has Austin really got my mojo working?

Brits@SXSW Facebook and Whatsapp groups were quickly filled with over a hundred people and various meet ups were arranged and new contacts made that will be brought back to the UK. But more importantly serendipity seemed to live on every corner where people spontaneously speak to one another openly and without agenda.

The community
The tech community appears to have a different ethos to other careers  - collaboration is at the heart of the culture alongside a desire to create the best of the best. Coupled with this is an element of thinking about how the work can genuinely change the World. This showed itself all over Austin from 3M's commitment to sustainability to IBM’s work using tech to help disabilities and age related illnesses to far smaller projects such as Techfugees who are bringing the considerable firepower of technology to the European refugee crisis.

Big Thinking
Big thinking sparks big ideas, whether it is experiencing the latest haptic, immersive VR or real life Iron Man AR, playing rock, paper scissors with Marvin the robot or even watching films about Mid West farmers and Eastern European retirees dreaming of sending their robots to the moon with the help of Google. The thinking inspires a host of other ideas from the simple to the complex that can be applied to our everyday work and personal life.

Look after your mind
Tech is advancing at such a fast and relentless pace we are entering new territories and we don't know how this will affect the human psyche. From the always-on world to the increasingly competitive work environment inevitably people’s minds will be affected. In short we need to look after ourselves and control our lives, not let our tech lives control us. Watching over 2,000 'meditate' with the help of Andy Piddicombe from (INSERT SPACEHeadspace was a particular highlight. 

Fearless creativity
Being fearless is a consistent theme in the tech World AND IT was mentioned a lot and it showed itself in many guises - from the young, phenomenally intelligent 20 something’s working in Government to the grads barely out of MIT solving big World issues and the entrepreneurs peddling their apps, inventions and products they all relentlessly follow Jobs’ edict to ‘have the courage to follow your heart and intuition’ 

I would like to think if Gandhi was alive he would be wandering the streets of Austin and taking in all that SXSW has to offer inspiring people in his words to "be the change you want to see in the world’, and I would add...."the change you want to see in yourself…"

  By Jane Hovey, Head of Planning Millennials are boring there I said it. But so are Gen Y,...

Vox Pop: Have we reached 'peak millennial'?

  By Jane Hovey, Head of Planning
Millennials are boring there I said it. But so are Gen Y, Gen Z, Boomers etc.
The problem with the ‘Generation this or that’ approach is that they are broad brush demographic segments which are neither useful for marketers nor do justice to the variety of individuals in a particular cohort. I find them boring as they don’t delve into the beautiful fascinating individual groups within those segments. Demographic segments don’t give the nuance required to really understand the people we need to engage. The insights to inspire creative solutions or the detail for effective media targeting.
Gen Z are fascinating in their use of technology, perception of the world and brands place in it BUT are they the right audience for every brand? NO. Of course we need to understand the changing media habits of consumers but just always going for the youngest coolest is that right? We also need to consider the market in which we operate. For millennials, and now Gen Z, excitement is often driven by stats in the US showing they are the biggest cohort.  But if we look at the UK as a whole, 27.9% of people fall into the Generation X category (30-49), 22.2% are Baby Boomers (50-59), 20.9% are in Generation Y (15-29), indeed at only 18.1%, Generation Z (0-14) is the smallest group at present. I am looking forward to seeing the unfolding of how the next generation engage with brands, the devices they use and how creative they get with content…even the businesses they inspire. 
Full article here:

By Ben Carroll  A bunch of us creatives took a quick lunchtime jaunt over to the Getty Galler...

Creative in Focus

By Ben Carroll 

A bunch of us creatives took a quick lunchtime jaunt over to the Getty Gallery to attend the Drum Network hosted talk, Creative in Focus

A look at the predicted visual trends of 2016, Jacqueline Bourke gave us a whirlwind glance behind the curtain of the Getty Images machine and offered us an intriguing glimpse into the rapidly-rising visual trends that we can already see echoed in our own work.

Six trends were identified and discussed, with a look at the search terms that indicated their popularity, examples of their cultural pervasiveness, and a few choice examples from the Getty collection.

One particularly interesting insight into the success of these trends is their ability to work well on the smaller screen. Mobile viewing now means that su

Each visual trend was so interesting that I’ve worked up a little breakdown of them all…


Outsider In -  
What’s it all about?
Celebrating the rebellious, this imagery revels in doing things differently. This is the rise of the weirdos.
What are people searching for?
Bold choices. Rebellious. Stand out from the crowd.
Where have we seen this?
Politicians are currently painting themselves as outsiders. Films about rebels are everywhere (Hunger games, Star Wars, The Revenant). Amy Schumer and Miley Cyrus are current queens of this trend. Even big business now celebrates the outsiders.
How are brands using it?
Trulia created an ad to help you find the perfect home for the weirdo in you – basically explain a bit more because people might not be bothered to watch it - #Trulihome
Are we starting to see this in our own work?
We’ve seen a huge rise in working with more maverick philosophies, particularly with our whisky brand, Glenfiddich

Divine Living 
What’s it all about?
A meeting point of spirituality and luxury. Mashing together premium with the ethereal. Presenting consumers with products full of emotion and meaning.
What are people searching for?
Integrity. Mindfulness. Good deed. (A decline in searches for the term ‘selfish’)
Where have we seen this?
Justin Bieber’s latest album cover. The Apple store becoming the modern day temple. Pantone’s colours of the year – Rose Quartz and Serenity.
How are brands using it?
UBS entrepreneur print campaign
Are we starting to see this in our own work?

The 2016 Hyundai Genesis ad “Sanctuary” was held up by Getty as a prime example of this trend.

Extended Human 
What’s it all about?
While many technological images prey on our anxieties about A.I, this interesting approach to tech, this trend sees tech making us more human rather than less.
What are people searching for?
Wearable tech. Robotics. Drones.
Where have we seen this?
The TV series Humans and the film Ex Machina perfectly capture how we are currently feeling about future tech. Elon Musk represents this in business. Many houses currently own a BB8 toy or a drone. Are humans developing an emotional attachment to robots?
How are brands using it?
North Face – VR shopping experience
Are we starting to see this in our own work?
Our ongoing strategy for Hyundai is very relevant to this trend. We’re very interested in looking at how we can humanize technology, bringing relatable, emotional moments back to the world of innovation.  

What’s it all about?
Harnessing the power of the messy, this trend takes on a beautifully ugly, visceral aesthetic.
What are people searching for?
Grit texture. Messy floor. Distressed texture.
Where have we seen this?
Smaller screens have driven us to appreciate imagery of a more sensory nature. The more time we spend in a screen the more we crave sensorial imagery
How are brands using it?
Imperfect Produce
Are we starting to see this in our own work?
We are starting to see this look creep into the art direction for some of our work. Glenfiddich in particular should start to see some of this messier, more rebellious aesthetic in some areas. Luxury product shots, while previously characterised by cleanliness, are bre

Silence Vs Noise 
What’s it all about?
Very much the antithesis to Messthetics. this trend gives consumers some space away from all the clutter. Characterised by soft colour palettes and white space. Less is more.
What are people searching for?
Simplicity. Complex to simple.
Where have we seen this?
In an increasingly cluttered, always-on world, sanctuary is found in isolation. Contemporary minimalism continues to be the look of choice for the luxurious.
How are brands using it?
Kit Kat’s Christmas Break
Are we starting to see this in our own work?
Much discussed around Christmas in particular, an interesting conceptual area now seems to be cutting through noise with unexpected silence.

 What’s it all about?
Taking its cues from surrealism, this trend looks to visually represent our complex digital lives in increasingly creative, abstract ways.
What are people searching for?
Virtual reality. Surreal landscapes. Dreaming.
Where have we seen this?
Banksy’s Dismaland turned the art world upside down. Again, Miley Cyrus was held as an example as she rebrands herself. Fashion label MSGM is popularising surreal styles.
How are brands using it?
VW’s blind spot ads
Are we starting to see this in our own work?
This trend could not be more relevant to Hendrick’s, although arguably this ‘antidote to the ordinary’ Gin brand should probably be given credit for the rise of this trend, surrealism being integral from it’s inception.

This year Matt Desmier brought Silicon Beach in-land with some of the world’s most respected...


This year Matt Desmier brought Silicon Beach in-land with some of the world’s most respected thinkers in tow. We’ve picked our most inspiring moments from these creators, doers and innovators to share with you.

10. There is no Magic Formula
We spend a lot of time trying to come up with a super solution for advertising; one ‘cure-all’ template. But unfortunately, there isn’t one. Different brands have different consumers who react in different ways. The only way to engage them is to be RELEVANT. Nishma Robb from Google shared a great example. A 2-minute Mountain Dew film was more engaging and got more brand recall than its shorter counterpart because of one simple reason. It made people laugh.

9. Hire Happy people
Pip Jamieson from The Dots, a creative talent network, told us of the tumultuous journey she had setting up her global network. When you’re starting a business, inevitably you’re going to face some tough times and you’ll need strong people around you, not people moaning about what’s going wrong. You cannot underestimate the power of optimism and a can do attitude from your employees.

8. Make Decisions, not Goals
Savannah Peterson, from Speck Design, gave an inspirational speech about the psychology of ‘goals’. She argued that by creating a goal, you are setting yourself up for failure. And it’s not the goals that you aim for, but the decisions that you make, right now, that ultimately affect your future.

7. There will never be Robot Creatives
Some of us worry that robots will take over our jobs, and the future will essentially be The Matrix. But creative types need not fear this dystopian end. The problem with machines is that they are programmed to follow rules. Creativity thrives by breaking them, says Pip Jamieson from The Dots.

6. Live TV is not on its deathbed
When Netflix and iPlayer took over, everyone looked to live TV. Is it dead? They asked. Lindsey Clay thinks not. She showed us an experiment she conducted, where people were asked to give up Live TV for a whole week. The results were somewhat hilarious. We saw footage of people mourning the loss of Saturday Night Live, staring blankly at their switched off TV sets and wondering what to do with their lives. Live TV is still part of so many lives and routines, it’s a difficult habit to break.

5.  You don’t own your Social channel
Your consumers do. Your social activity is hosted on a network outside of your brand, you are essentially renting this space, and it’s where your consumers, not your brand make the rules.

4. Talk to people who hate you
If you change their minds, they’ll become your strongest advocates.

3. Be a creative equal
Feminism has been a hot topic for a while now, but just because we’re talking about it, doesn’t mean that everything is OK. Only 11% of Creative Directors in the ad industry are women, and Ali Hanan wants to change that. She set up Creative Equals, a company that aims to get ad land to commit to 50/50 representation in its creative departments.

2. Enjoy making it
If you watch or see a bit of content, and you get the feeling that it was made with care, enjoyment and enthusiasm, you’ll enjoy it too. Creatives’ feelings translate into their work, so it’s important to stay happy and motivated.

1. Be more human
‘Digital convergence has turned consumers back into people’.  A lot of brands talk to consumers. But they don’t understand that they are having a one-way conversation. Brands are made by humans, for humans and we need to respect that by talking to people like one. No one can have a meaningful conversation with a robot.
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