Creative Development: A planner’s guide to building not bombing

At the latest Open Strategy event, three speakers tackled the topic of creative development, focusing on how planners should build ideas rather than destroy them. VCCP’s Head of Planning, Cat Wiles, gave the planner’s view, laying down her guide to building not bombing. She begun by setting out some key criteria of what makes a good planner: making decisions that make the work better; building at every stage, from client brief to qual research; putting their egos to one side and being open to what the solution can be, even if that means not creating the ‘perfect’ brief; being curious and taking an interest in all aspects of the creative, including pre-production, casting briefs, music etc; and owning the research phase to protect ideas. Simples, right?

Probably not, so here is Cat’s more in-depth 101 on how to be a great planner, and build great creative relationships:

It’s all about having the right attitude

  1. Be open — about how you work with people, the process, and allowing things to stay open.
  2. Be generous — not a word sadly often associated with the industry, and it’s lacking a lot. Be generous with your time and approach — take other people on your journey and acknowledge that everyone’s got a valid point of view. Give everyone a voice and equal footing, there could be a bit of inspiration that comes from an unexpected place.
  3. Be empathetic — to how the creatives are feeling, and how the clients are feeling. Switch hats with them, think about how other people are feeling in the room — be conscientious.
  4. Nurture ideas — think of yourself as a gardener, ‘yes and’ is a great attitude to bring into the room.

Create the right conditions for great work to happen

  1. A creative brief is a springboard to great work — don’t over engineer your briefs, it’s about leaving it a little bit loose — don’t get to the point where it’s so logical that there’s no magic in it. Distill it and think about the emotional response you want to elicit from the audience.
  2. Bring a fresh perspective — Offer a different point of view to stimulate new avenues of thinking.
  3. Creativity values the space to explore — do what you can to protect the creative individual’s time!

Help creative organise their ideas

  1. Create themes — Find the common thread between the ideas and bucket the themes into territories, helping the creative find new ways in.
  2. Demonstrate breadth and depth — there’s increasing pressure on clients to be efficient and consistent. As a result, we need to demonstrate longevity of an idea — tease and stretch ideas to see how they can work in the longer-term.

Help creatives present their ideas

  1. Take the time to get to know the team — Bring your personality to the table, work in your sense of humour, and break down the professional walls between planner and creative to loosen the atmosphere.
  2. Help them prepare for the client presentation — whether it be calming their nerves, or organising their ideas, bring out the best in your team.

Create the right conditions for the client to buy

  1. Highlight the insight that led to the idea — the planner should always be the voice of the consumer, make sure that voice comes across.
  2. Create a clear line of logic from strategy to creative — prime them for what you’re expecting from them and how you want them to respond.
  3. Separate the idea from the execution — encourage clients not to react subjectively or with their heart but to focus on the rationale and the idea.
  4. Bring the clients back to the problem not the solution — go back to what the problem is and go from there rather than going to a subjective point of view of the solution on the table.
  5. Obsess about the details — execute your strategy at every single touchpoint along the journey, after all ‘it only works if it all works’.

Use research to protect ideas

  1. Have a point of view — interrogate the research methodology and make sure it’s suited to your needs.
  2. Get the right methodology — we don’t spend enough time talking about the methodology — if you’ve got great work, fight for it, do what you can to influence the result.
  3. Use the right researchers — find out who the great ones are, it’s not about finding a company but about finding the individuals.
  4. Create the right stimulus — different ideas need to be brought to life in different ways, make sure your stimulus is going to do justice to the idea.
  5. Be the voice of the consumer — don’t use marketing jargon, use consumer language, be a real person — distill and make things simple.

This is the second write-up from the third Open Strategy ‘School of Planning’ event: Creative development — How to build and not destroy. Keep an eye on future events here.