The perils of parallel planning and the power of ideas

National media director at 303Lowe, Steve Sinha
By National media director at 303Lowe, Steve Sinha | 13 March 2015

Within the confines of a flat economy and the unravelling complexities of an increasingly fragmented, technologically disrupted media landscape, some consistent and common themes continue to roll forward.

Themes focusing on increasing spends on owned assets, structures – that seek connection, and, as a reaction to these trends, a headlong launch into automation are dominating a lot of media chatter.

A lot of commentary focuses on the implications for organisational structures but what does this mean for clients?

We know the life of a marketer is not easy. The market is creating increasing financial challenges for them and a greater need to demonstrate and communicate ROI to broader stakeholders, whilst simultaneously solving what seem increasingly complex communication challenges.

As these challenges mount, simplicity is increasingly the key as well as return to a key driver that has often been lost in the discourse in recent years – the power of ideas.

Improvements in data and analytics over the last decade have provided strong empirical support for the Power of Ideas. A range of studies have shown that even strong improvements in price and value of existing approaches will, at best, deliver only high single digit increases in sales growth.

However, a range of award-winning campaigns show that dramatic step changes in sales growth can be delivered by transformational ideas. In many cases, the sales success has been determined by the level to which a big idea has been scaled. Did it merely inform specific campaign messaging or an element of added value in which case sales increases are invariably limited? Or, was it used to power much broader business, product or communication changes, in which transformational growth can be achieved?

The power of the idea is often in line with the power of the insight unearthed to drive it.

So, is it as simple as a transformative big idea? Well, yes, often it is, especially when there is confidence to execute it at the largest scale of the original thought. However, our ability to deliver such a transformation is often impeded, which brings me on to the perils of parallel planning.

We have landed in a largely default position of all constituents of an agency roster chasing a big idea in a comms equivalent of the space race. A transformative idea needs to be integrated, but the process of parallel planning obstructs the integration required, often through practical problems that prove difficult to solve. Each rostered agency tackles the same brief with a very similar process that ends up running at different speeds.

As a consequence, collaboration and synchronisation are hard to achieve and the process ends up in the most dangerous territory of the generation of parallel insights and parallel ideas across a range of agencies. Once this happens, clients find themselves in a difficult corner, everyone is empowered to deliver a big idea but how many have ended up on the cutting room floor as collateral damage in a multi-agency stalemate?

Digital is a key battleground. From an industry perspective, we invariably view media in general, and digital in particular, as fragmented (and manage accordingly), whereas consumers see it as joined up and connected. Increasingly, this connectivity drives the media choices of consumers.

So, the increasing separation and distance between the spectrum of digital creatives, strategists, media planners, technologists, innovators and so on, seems out of step with consumer trends and has led to clients having to contend with increasing layers of complexity and separation in a bid to solve what should be the relatively simple tasks of integrating digital into their broader business and marketing. Are acquisition and automation the only issues when digital drives so much consumer engagement? A more holistic, end-to-end solution is required.

As we seek connection and diversification across platforms and assets, I think the key trends to watch in 2015 will be those that help deliver transformational ideas to generate transformational growth in challenging times. Invariably, they will involve an increase in integration. Of idea generation and navigation and strategy and execution. But we can’t deliver growth without a great idea at the heart of it.

By Steve Sinha
National media director at 303Lowe

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