What do core conservatives mean

How “creative” does planning have to be?

A plea for sober demands and the transmission of understandable fascination

By Knut Riedel, freelance planning director, Hamburg


Years ago in a designated creative agency on a designated mega creative budget, a management supervisor (who was also a trained planner) accused the planning team of the input to the creation being far too uncreative, bloodless, unemotional. The reply of the responsible creative director: “For God's sake, don't try to get creative yourself! Tell us clearly what the task is - then we are creative ourselves. "

A great burden fell from my shoulders. Apart from improvements in detail, our "brittleness" and the rather modest demands on our own creativity seemed to be considered consistently target-oriented by "the creative people". Despite this carte blanche, I have never left the question of to what extent and how much planning should be “creative” and what that can mean in concrete terms.

By “creativity” I mean the new combination of what is known to create an unconventional, surprising and, for the target group, convincing solution. And as the core job of planning, I understand firstly to identify one or more viable paths for the future market presence of the customer, and secondly to convey this (s) to the colleagues from creation (and later also to the customer) in an inspiring way. What are the possible starting points for “creative” planning?


1. "Creative" strategy formulation

Is it about choosing a strategic lever that is unconventional for the category and the competition? Or to put it another way: The decision on which level of the benefit ladder to focus on: a functional feature, a rational added value, an emotional experience or feeling, social recognition or a value or claim that outshines everything? Is this act of selection potentially surprising, convincing and thus already “creative”?

Or is it about an unprecedented - and therefore “creative” - combination of consumer insight and brand proposition? How many of them are there, especially in the FMCG sector? Or is it (quite flatly) about a particularly linguistic-aesthetic formulation of the box in the Creative Brief that is intended as the actual “springboard” for the work of the creative? (The creative director quoted above was probably referring to this in the first place.)

But beware! There is a fine line between a pioneering template and a concrete solution. If the strategist has tied the solution too tightly to a certain term or metaphor, one quickly achieves the "Don't think about a pink elephant" effect: The picture is stuck in the creative minds and blocks the way to the actually creative "solutions. If the strategy sentence is already written too brilliantly, it can often hardly be caught up, let alone overtaken, creatively.

And: not every promising strategic approach has to be unconventional or even disruptive. Brands are essentially conservative systems and many products are (if you are honest) rather mundane everyday companions. A "solid" strategy that simply condenses the facts and draws a (psychologically) logically clear conclusion from them, which can then be conveyed to the target group in a stimulating way, often represents the solution to the marketing problem rather than a revolutionary one Approach.


2. "Creative" strategy delivery

"Inspiration" is the magic word here. How can the correctness and relevance of the strategic approach be conveyed to the creative in a comprehensible ("credible") and gripping manner? Happening-like methods such as "And now everyone should try the product themselves", "Everyone out to the supermarket", briefing in the machine hall, presenting the target group as real people, showing excerpts from the focus group or the Cannes role, etc. are legendary. etc.

Apart from large pitches, where they also have a team building character, such extensive briefing events rarely take place in day-to-day business. Not only because hardly anyone has the time and head capacities for it, but often also because the output often does not correspond to the effort of the input. Or also because the experienced creative director raises his eyebrows with moderate amusement and "after all the fuss" would like to finally have the core message ("... we are creative ourselves ...").


3. "Creative" persuasion of the customer

Planning can also contribute “creatively” as a prelude to the presentation of creations: imaginative brand models, exciting derivations, appealing strategy formulations (alliterations, similar sounds), illustrations with photos, videos, target group quotes, etc.

However, caution is advised here too. If the planning fireworks arouse tensions or expectations that the creation (as the actual highlight) cannot meet, the agency is doing the agency a disservice. After all, the customer should primarily buy the end product and not just the prepress.


"Conveying comprehensible fascination"

Conclusion: Although everyday planning offers a wide range of options for “more creativity”, this claim does not make much sense across the board. Depending on the task, capacities, “callousness” of the creative and creative policy of the agency in front of the customer, it fits more or less well if the planning wants or should act particularly “creatively”.

In my experience, it makes more sense to aim to convey “comprehensible fascination” to the creative (which does not exclude “creativity”). Because creative people are often “hooked” when one has less of a “creative” solution in mind or wants to be particularly “creatively inspiring”, but when one succeeds in establishing one's own fascination for the brand or the product, the task and its solution -Possibilities to bring across.

Does the planner show with shining eyes what beautiful, previously under-illuminated potentials still lie dormant in the brand, its communicative relationship to the target group and the differentiation from the competition, and is he able to fix this reasonably adequately in a binding written form, this should pave the way for an exciting confrontation with the task. "Comprehensible" should mean that the planner makes it clear from which context information he draws his insights and strategic approaches in order to then make them available for further use like a quarry.

“Tell us clearly what the task is” is a bit too short, because the planning should already offer possible solutions - but especially the creative people should become “creative” after the briefing. Because that's their job.



Photo: “Thats my pencil” | november bunny | photocase.de