Advertising & Practical Thinking

The advertising profession is cold and cruel. The power of practical thinking is a perfect antidote.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Account Planning and Account Planners. Bane or Boon?

“Don’t want to hear the word ‘Planning’.”
“The ‘P’ word is a nuisance.”
-President of a global advertising agency on what the creatives, in that agency, have to say about Planning & Planners. (As said to me, in 1999.)

In March 2000, these two statements were responsible for my writing this document on the subject of Account Planning and Account Planners.

In 2005, the COO of a global marketing company told me, “ We have a planning department. But, we provide planning services only to clients who are willing to pay for the services. We do not know how we can convince all our clients that Account Planning is the starting point of all strategy development.”

Today, much of what follows still holds true – obviously, the content has been updated.

The Origin of Account Planning.

The need to involve the consumer in the development of more effective, creative advertising was recognized by two different UK advertising agencies in the mid-sixties. In 1964, Stephen King of J. Walter Thompson (JWT) developed a new system of working which concentrated on combining consumer research and insights to develop more effective and creative advertising.

In 1968, Sidney Pollitt of Boase Massimi Pollitt (BMP) decided that the voice of the consumer was of paramount importance and that account management was using data incompetently in the writing of the creative brief. He wanted a research person working with the account man.

The name Account Planning was coined by Tony Snead of JWT merging the titles of media planners and account people, in 1968.

The first agency in the US to adopt the discipline was Chiat/Day (1982), and Jane Newman was the first senior vice-president corporate director of account planning.
It was Jay Chiat, along with Jane Newman, who led the agency on the Macintosh Account to create the much acclaimed “1984” commercial that launched Apple Computers.

Looking at the success of Chiat/Day, larger agencies including Ogilvy & Mather and DDB Needham adopted the discipline of Account Planning. In the 1990s, other agencies followed suit.

In adopting the discipline the U.S. agencies called the account planner a “Brand Planner” or “Strategic Planner”. Soon, the original “Account Planner” replaced these positions.

What is Account Planning? Who is an Account Planner?

Account Planning is a disciplined system for devising communications/advertising/commercial strategy and enhancing its ability to produce outstanding creative solutions that will be effective in the marketplace.

Account Planning also recognizes the need to demonstrate how and why the communication has performed.

An Account Planner is essentially the account team’s primary contact with the outside world; the person who through personal background, knowledge of all pertinent information and overall experience, is able to bring a strong consumer focus to all advertising decisions.

What are the Various Roles of Planning?

The planning department of an advertising agency is responsible for various functions. These include:
– Market Research
– Data Analysis
– Qualitative Research (focus group studies)
– Information and Knowledge Center
– Voice of the Consumer (target audience)
– Brainstorming Facilitation
– Prognostication
– Media/Communications (touch-point) Planning
– Strategic Thinking/Strategy Development
– Insight Mining (finding that one “nugget”)
– Authoring the Creative Brief
– Knowledge Application

Reactions to Planning & Planners Within an Agency.

“Planning” has finally become a part of the way things are done at most agencies. Within an agency, some people like the concept of planning and the planners, while others don’t.

Those who do not like it fall into three categories:
– Like the concept, but feel that the planners in the agency are inept.
– Feel threatened due to their own shortcomings/inadequacies and are very protective of their own territory.
– Have no clue as to what the discipline entails and how they can benefit by being true partners.

What some people in a major agency had to say about Account Planning and Planners (this agency, at that time had a hybrid research/planning department, with a traditional researcher as the department head).
– “Upper management needs to recognize the role of Planning.”
– "The process of Account Planning has never been defined.”
– “ I have no problems with Account Planning, but do the planners we have know what they are talking about”
– “Are our Account Planners trained and experienced or are they just research people?”
– “Account planning has fostered cross-departmental integration.”
– “We are not brief-driven. We should be!”
– “We are very good with quantitative research; I cannot say the same thing about our abilities with qualitative research.”
– “Account Planning does not exist here; we think it does.”
– "We need to look at doing things right, and experienced Account Planners can champion the cause.
– “Our so called planners do not know a thing about advertising.”
– “Too much dependency on focus groups; nothing wrong with that if we had qualified moderators and analysts.”
– “Account Planning is a serious issue.”
– “Creatives don’t like us (planners) telling them things. I was given a list of what I could say and what I could not.”
– "Some of the creatives accept research and our (planners) writing the brief; but not our reviewing the creative.”

The Account Planner.

Very often, agencies hire the wrong people to become a part of the planning group. They may be anthropologists, sociologists or psychologists; but if they are not students of the art of advertising, they will not be the right people.

Account Planners have to be advertising practitioners. If not, they cannot bridge the consumer and creative.

Account Planners need to have the capacity and capability to constantly re-challenge conventional advertising and marketing wisdom. Only those who are advertising savvy can do this effectively.

Most individuals have a distinct preference for either left-brain or right-brain styles of thinking. Good Account Planners, however, are more whole-brained and equally adept at both modes.

Account Planners have to be able to get passionate about consumer insights.

The following are the key characteristics that a good Account Planner should possess (some of these were originally stated by Chiat/Day):
– Curiosity about what makes people act and think the way they do.
– Understanding that what people say is not necessarily what they believe or do. Being capable of discerning the difference and possessing the ability to determine real insights into motivation.
– Ability to examine a problem from different perspectives without losing sight of the big picture.
– Logical and analytical, yet capable of lateral thought.
– Views research as a means to an end.
– Applies a pragmatic approach to problem solving.
– Possess an ability to conceptualize and think strategically.
– Be capable of taking a commercial and making a reasonable judgment/guess on its intended effect on the target consumer and the desired responses.
– Has an inherent ability to visualize the meaning of numbers and generate hypotheses, or draw conclusions.
– Accepts nothing at face value, challenging assumptions until the whole picture makes sense.
– Enjoys talking about advertising.

Consumer insights are what help the Account Planner mine a few nuggets. In order to mine a quality nugget, an Account Planner starts a discussion with the consumers of the product/brand. Typically, this is what happens.
– Listening
– Probing
– More listening
– Taking notes
– Replaying the interactions internally, while blocking out all other thoughts
– Transcribing the notes
– Studying the notes. Not once, not twice, but many times.
– That one insight that will be that one special nugget is extracted.

The Brief.

The Planner is charged with formulating the creative brief and being the person who lays it all out and provides direction for the creatives. The ideal brief is developed when Planning and Account Service work together, also involving the media department if feasible.

They have to work together to combine the needs of the client, the demands of the market, and the expectations of the consumer.

Together they will have to stimulate creative development.

Great ideas that result in great advertising are a result of a “chemical reaction” between two basic elements:
– The Consumer: “What is it about the product that the consumer likes”.
– The Product: “What is the product’s (or brand’s) answer to the consumer’s core values”.

The right catalyst (that nugget) will create that magical reaction resulting in a compelling brief.

When a brief is compelling, it will breathe and have a life.

A compelling brief will also have a soul.

Therefore, in order to generate “great ideas” every time the following equation should be realized:

The Soul of the Agency Brief
The Soul of the Product/Brand
The Soul of the Consumer

This will make the “brief” the Crown Jewel.

How it All Works Together.

Advertising is a team effort. As stated by many, it can be best illustrated as follows:
Client says: “My Product”
Account Director says: “My Client”
Creative Director says: “My Ad”
Account Planner says: “My Consumer”

Planning? Who needs it?

No agency “needs” Planning.

Agencies that give clients only what they ask for do not need Planning, as they will find it a waste of resources.

Agencies committed to doing fresh, bold, innovative and effective advertising more consistently will find Planning a valuable investment paying rich dividends at many levels.

Account Planning, a concept over thirty years old is still in many ways in its infancy as some clients and agencies have been laggards in embracing the process. They are the losers.

Agencies practicing the discipline and their clients are the winners.
Certainly a boon for them!

Sources include and

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Putting The Customer First.

In early July, I was taking a cab from the Indies Hotel to the Kingston Airport in Jamaica and the lady on the two-way dispatch radio was blabbering. During the 30-minute ride to the airport, the cab driver was silent with the dispatch lady’s voice providing audio entertainment.

The Jamaicans have their own dialect with an accent as pronounced as that of a Cockney, making one wonder if she was indeed talking in English.

In between making dispatch requests, she also made an announcement to the cab drivers. It was only when she made the same announcement for the third time during the ride, did the message make sense to me.

Every day, cabs would be stopped randomly and inspected for exterior and interior cleanliness. Also, the cab driver should be well groomed, attired neatly, and exude no body odor. Your customer expects this.

Each day, the top ten drivers would receive a 25% discount at a specific gas station.

What an uncommonly common idea. Make it a pleasant ride for your customer.

Well done, Jamaica!

Practical Thinking at its best…

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


This white paper was originally written in 1998. All of what was written still holds true; therefore it is being published here. In 2002, The Marketing Store, a global promotions agency, invited PentaTwo to help them lay the foundations for an agency-wide Knowledge Management initiative and today the company is in Phase III of the undertaking.

However, most advertising agencies have yet to undertake an organized effort to establish Knowledge Management as an integral part of their day-to-day operations. This is a grave error.


“Knowledge by its very definition is unstructured and unpredictable. One never knows when the ‘aha’ experience - which combines knowledge, experience and action – will take place. So does that mean that you don’t have to worry about it? Another simple answer: You’d better!”
-Jon Powell, MMA/Gartner Group Newsletter, Summer 1998

In 1998, The Economist noted, “Knowledge Management remains an infuriatingly vague subject.” (And, today, it still does!) This is in part because it has an infuriatingly vague vocabulary surrounding it. Terms such as data, information, tacit and explicit knowledge, intelligence, learning and wisdom are often used interchangeably and without clear definition.

Add to this the challenge of navigating through all the technology suppliers that claim to have “Knowledge Management” products, and one can become easily overwhelmed by either philosophical debate or arguments over the question, “How do we manage knowledge?”

The confusion is understandable. Even experts and practitioners disagree on something as fundamental as exactly what to call concerted efforts to capture, organize and share what employees know. With some semantic quibbling, we are as likely to hear such efforts referred to as managing “intellectual capital,” intellectual assets” or “knowledge resources.”

Whatever it’s called, proponents generally agree with why it’s important. According to Anne Stuart, (thenSenior Editor at CIO,) “Because of downsizing, frequent job jumping, constant change, globalization and the transition from an industrial to a knowledge-based economy, companies feel more pressure than ever to maintain a well-informed workforce, boost productivity and gain competitive advantage.” By creating an inclusive, comprehensive, easily accessible organizational memory, knowledge management helps meet all these goals.

However, questions continue to evolve:

-Is it possible to manage something as intangible as knowledge?
-How do you determine its value?
-How do the benefits fit into the balance sheet?

Definitions & Distinctions.

It is now generally agreed that the starting point for knowledge is data.

Data is defined as raw forms of transactional representations, or basic units of observation and measurement. Data is mostly explicit, it can be written down, stored, retrieved, passed around and discussed easily.

Information is a collection of data that has been translated into a form, which conveys a message. It is the raw material from which knowledge is formed.

Knowledge is much more than organized and patterned data. Knowledge also pulls together assumptions, theories, understanding and conclusions from study, experiment and experience.

It is important to realize that there are two main types of knowledge: explicit and tacit. They can be further divided into ‘public’ and ‘private.’

Explicit knowledge is knowledge that can be easily passed on to others; whilst, tacit knowledge is difficult to codify and express to others without actively engaging them in an experience similar to that in which the tacit knowledge was created. Tacit knowledge is also said to be very context-specific. A final characteristic is that tacit knowledge can be created and stored unconsciously. As people become familiar with a task, they learn unconsciously how to improve their performance. They find this difficult to pass on to those new to the task because they do not realize they know it.

Tacit knowledge is often what makes an organization unique and differentiated in the marketplace. It is the keystone of sustainable competitive advantage.

Knowledge can be integrated and applied to achieve objectives and solve problems in the form of intelligence and is acquired and updated through a process of learning. How good any piece of knowledge is, and how appropriately it is applied in any given situation has a lot to do with wisdom, which adds another layer of discernment and judgement to knowledge through depth of experience. Wisdom, it has been observed, is knowing when one’s knowledge is useful or adequate.

Data and information, being mostly explicit, can be stored in machines, while knowledge, intelligence, learning and wisdom reside in the heads of people. Managing data and information is therefore a fundamentally different task from managing knowledge.

Information can be updated, transferred, processed and downloaded with ease and at a lower and lower cost. Updating, transferring and downloading knowledge from “knowers,” by contrast, is anything but straightforward. Transferring knowledge between people in particular is a major challenge, not least because knowledge is often equated with power that is enhanced by scarcity.

Also, unlike the information stored on a company’s computers, knowledge leaves the office every evening and may be lost for good when a “knower” leaves the business.

This is perhaps the most critical distinction to grasp from this hierarchy of definitions.

Joe Helfer, Founder of Knowledge Management Readiness Systems, provides what he calls a “common-sense” approach for a Knowledge Management framework.

Data: 6. Blue, Australia, (818) 340-7895
Information: Adam is six feet tall, has blue eyes, lives in Australia and has a telephone number.
Knowledge: Adam is easier to reach by telephone than by e-mail.
Wisdom: It’s best not to communicate with Adam by e-mail.

Now that we have an understanding of what we mean by knowledge, let us develop an understanding of the phrase ‘Knowledge Management.’

Knowledge that has been formalized, captured and leveraged within an organization to produce a higher customer valued asset is called Intellectual Capital. Or, in other words, intellectual capital is intellectual material - - knowledge, information, intellectual property, experience - - that can be put to use to create wealth.

Knowledge Management, or the management of intellectual capital, projects vary as widely as the industries undertaking them. But generally, efforts are intended to retain, analyze and organize employee expertise, making it available anywhere, anytime - - ideally and ultimately to improve the bottom line.

Effective Knowledge Management pays off in fewer mistakes, less redundancy, quicker problem solving, better decision making, reduced research and development costs, increased worker independence, enhanced customer relations, and improved products and services - - all adding up to keep the company at least a few steps ahead of its competitors.

“If we apply knowledge to tasks we already know how to do, we call it productivity. If we apply knowledge to tasks that are new and different, we call it innovation.”
-Peter F. Drucker,
Post-Capitalist Society

Symptoms of a Knowledge Problem.

David H. Smith, head of Knowledge Development for global giant Unilever has developed a list of nine symptoms of a “knowledge problem” – something wrong with how your company manages its brainpower. In 1997, Smith was given the task of “helping Unilever act more intelligently” – that is, learn faster and leverage what it knows. “The solution to our problem isn’t to work harder. We’ve got to learn to work smarter…” That, as Smith says, “is obviously true but extremely trite.”

Knowledge problems have symptoms that mimic other problems, and as Smith says, “Each of the following is a symptom that you don’t manage knowledge well: People aren’t finding it, moving it around, keeping it refreshed and up to date, sharing it, or using it.”

-You repeat mistakes. Obviously, there is nothing wrong in making a mistake. But, when you keep repeating them, well…
-You duplicate work; or, you keep re-inventing the wheel.
-You have poor customer relations.
-Good ideas don’t transfer between departments, units, or countries. Thomas A. Stewart calls this “the most common knowledge problem of all.” How do we get people to share ideas rather than hoard them, to accept ideas, rather than reject them?
-You’re competing on price. Everything you learn about a customer is an opportunity to make it harder for competitors to horn in. The result: margin.
-You can’t compete with market leaders. Trying to answer the question, “What do they know, that we don’t know?” may enable you to outwit the bigger competitors.
-You are dependent on key individuals. This means there is too little teamwork or you do not know how to encourage star workers to reveal secrets of their success.
-You are slow to launch new products or enter new markets.
-You don’t know how to price for service.

Smith’s list is diagnostic, not prescriptive. And, each item on it is a knowledge problem, with real business consequences – for both your clients and you.

“Few people quarrel with the notion that companies must learn to invest in and manage knowledge if they hope to compete in an economy where, more than ever, knowledge is what we buy and sell.”
-Thomas A. Stewart, “Why Dumb Things Happen to Smart Companies.” Fortune

Knowledge in an Advertising Agency.

Let us take a look at a typical advertising agency, and the Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom (DIKW) hierarchy, as it relates to the Account Service Group. The following will hold true, for most account groups:

Assistant Account Executive: Data
Account Executive: Information
Account Supervisor: Knowledge
Account Director: Wisdom

More often than not, it is the Assistant Account Executive who is expected to be the reservoir of all data. All that the AAE is aware of is the fundamental data about the client (who? what? where?), the marketplace, the consumer and the competition. By the time this data has been mastered, it is time to be promoted to the position of Account Executive.

The Account Executive now has a very good idea of how the agency works, what is expected of him/her, and is capable of ordering and structuring data into information.

The process of “digging” for data (that already exists in most cases; however, it is inside somebody’s head) and the process of converting the data into information take up most of their time - - no wonder the AAEs and AEs spend 60-80 hours a week!

As the AE matures and is capable of pulling together assumptions, theories, understanding and conclusions from study, experience, and experiment (if there is ever time for that) and becomes knowledgeable, he/she is made an Account Supervisor.

Now the Account Supervisor is actively recruited by headhunters for a similar position (at a higher pay, of course) in another agency, or by the client, or worse yet by the client’s competitor.

There goes a “knower” out of the door.

Those Account Supervisors that do not leave (after six-eight years in the agency) become Account Directors. But Account Directors obviously have neither time nor the inclination to being a mentor and share their knowledge and wisdom with the young AAEs and AEs.

The cycle starts all over again.

This very scenario applies to all the departments in the Agency, from Creative to Production, Media to Administration. All that changes are the titles.

All this leads to inefficiencies, lost revenues and finally the next agency review.

While it is not possible to reduce or eliminate turnover, one possible solution is to develop a culture within the agency to constantly gathering all the knowledge, recording it, and making it available on demand to others.

Now let us assume that an Agency has three other offices in the country. Let us assume that the Midwest office has been invited to “pitch” Account ABC in a particular category? Before rushing to get all the information (starting out with calling Find/SVP) will anyone even consider calling the agency’s other offices to find out if either one of them had been involved in a pitch in the recent past to a client in the same category?

Let us assume someone did make the calls, and the Agency’s West coast office had indeed recently pitched another client in the same category. Did anyone keep records of the pitch? More importantly, did those involved in the pitch conduct a post-mortem on the complete process and determine any causes for not having won the account? In all probabilities, no attempt was made to have such a meeting to gather information and document all the knowledge gained from the experience. Capturing tacit knowledge, recording it, and making it available can indeed save time effort and money. It may even have helped in the presentation the Midwest office is to make.

How about that time when your agency was invited to pitch Account XYZ because your agency had handled a competing client, Account PQR till about a year ago? Now, Suzi who was the Account Director on PQR is no longer with the Agency, and the whiz kid Jim who knew everything about this category is working on another account and is on an overseas assignment. All the years your agency spent on Account PQR, and none of the knowledge and wisdom on the category is readily available. The team that will be making the pitch has to start from ground zero!

These are just a few examples of how a Knowledge Management initiative in your agency may help in the future. There are many, many instances that one can talk about where information is not available, not shared, or at times there being too much information stockpiled.

So where does one start? One way is to initiate and stimulate the agency’s thinking about Knowledge Management by asking the following questions, as suggested by Jon Powell:
-What critical knowledge exists in the agency and how is it accessible?
-How is knowledge systematically transferred?
-Does you agency acquire knowledge from the outside and how is this knowledge used within the agency?
-How do you generate, capture and disseminate new knowledge?
-How does your agency evaluate or value knowledge assets?
-Which technologies are used to capture, structure and disseminate knowledge?
-Are there any quality control checks built into any existing knowledge management processes?
-Does top management perceive and manage knowledge as a critical resource for future value creation and as an integral part of the corporate/business strategy?

In a very real sense, what is knowledge and what is not lies in the eye of the beholder: one person’s knowledge is merely data to another. A key determinant of these differing perspectives is strategy. Hence the first rule of effective Knowledge Management is that the definitions of management of and knowledge cannot be separated from the context of strategy. Therefore, your agency should first develop clear business strategies and then manage knowledge to support and leverage them.

You cannot manage knowledge unless you are very clear about what you want to do with it.
-Robert Davies “Reflections on Knowledge,” Management Center Europe

Some Principles of Knowledge Management.

Many companies are beginning to feel that knowledge of their employees is their most valuable asset. But, only a few firms have actually begun to actively manage their knowledge assets on a ‘broad’ scale.

Professor Thomas H. Davenport, University of Texas, an expert in the area of knowledge management, lists ten principles of Knowledge Management:
1. Knowledge Management is expensive (but so is stupidity!).
Knowledge is an asset, but its effective management requires investment of other assets. Many Knowledge Management activities require the investment of money or labor, including the following:
-Knowledge capture, i.e., creation of documents and moving documents onto computer systems.
-Adding value to knowledge through editing, packaging, and pruning.
-Developing knowledge categorization approaches and categorizing new contributions to knowledge.
-Developing informational technology informational structures and applications for the distribution of knowledge.
-Educating employees on the creation, sharing, and use of knowledge.

2. Effective Management of knowledge requires hybrid solutions of people and technology.
Human beings may be expensive and cantankerous, but they are quite accomplished at certain knowledge skills. When we seek to understand knowledge, to interpret it within a broader context, to combine it with other types of information, or to synthesize various unstructured forms of knowledge, humans are the recommended tool. These are the types of knowledge tasks at which we excel, and we should be employed for these purposes.

Computers and communications systems, on the other hand, are good at different kinds of things. For the capture, transformation, and distribution of highly structured knowledge that changes rapidly, computers are more capable than people.

Given this mixture of skills, we need to construct hybrid Knowledge Management environments in which we use both humans and computers in complementary ways.

3. Knowledge Management is highly political.
“Knowledge is power.” Thus it should be no surprise that Knowledge Management will be a highly political undertaking. If knowledge is associated with power, money, and success, then it is associated with lobbying, intrigue, and back-room deal.

4. Knowledge Management requires knowledge managers.
Key business resources like labor and capital have substantial organizational functions devoted to their management. Knowledge won’t be well-managed until some group within the firm has a clear responsibility for the job. Among the tasks that such a group might perform are collecting and categorizing knowledge, establishing a knowledge-oriented technology infrastructure, and monitoring the use of knowledge.

5. Knowledge Management benefits more from maps than models, more from markets than from hierarchies.
Knowledge managers can learn from the experience of data managers, whose complex models of how data would be structured in the future were seldom realized. Firms rarely created maps of the data, so never had any guides to where the information was.

Letting the market work means that knowledge managers try to make knowledge as attractive and accessible as possible, and then observe what knowledge gets requested using what specific terms.

6. Sharing and using knowledge are often unnatural acts.
Many consider the knowledge they possess to be a valuable resource and accordingly are reluctant to share it with others. The person whose job it is to create knowledge will seldom put his job at risk by using someone else’s knowledge. Our natural tendency is to hoard our knowledge.

To enter our knowledge into a system and seek out knowledge from others is not only threatening, but also just plain effort; so we have to be highly motivated to undertake such work.

Sharing and usage of knowledge will have to be motivated through time-honored techniques such as performance evaluation, and compensation.

7. Knowledge Management means improving knowledge work processes.
Knowledge is generated, used, and shared intensively in a few specific knowledge work processes. Any Knowledge Management process has to start with mapping the work process and making improvements in these key business processes.

8. Knowledge access is only the beginning.
Access is important, but successful Knowledge Management requires attention and engagement. In order for knowledge consumers to pay attention to knowledge, they must be more than passive recipients. This is particularly important when the knowledge to be received is tacit.

9. Knowledge Management never ends.
Like human resource management or financial management, there is never a time when knowledge has been fully managed. The categories of required knowledge are always changing and new categories are always emerging. Changes in strategies, organizational structures, new managers and new professionals warrant a need for continuous knowledge management.

10. Knowledge Management requires a knowledge contract.
Who owns the knowledge or has usage rights to employee knowledge? Is he knowledge of employees owned or rented? Is all the knowledge in employee heads the property of the employer? What about the knowledge of consultants while they are consulting? Few firms have policies to deal with these issues today.

The Chief Knowledge Officer.

Knowledge can take many forms and organizations differ in their definitions. Nonetheless, there is widespread agreement among forward-looking companies that knowledge is the most important asset an organization possesses. Unlike physical assets, it never depreciates or gets used up. In fact, the more knowledge is used, the more value it has.

However, to have a lasting impact on productivity, knowledge must be translated into performance, and applied to business operations.

Knowledge Management is a multi-disciplinary field that draws on aspects of information science, interpersonal communications, organizational learning, cognitive science, motivation, training, publishing, and business process analysis.

Charles Lucier, Chief Knowledge Officer at Booz Allen, believes that it is very difficult to encourage people in a decentralized organization to share their best thinking and collaborate effectively without someone to champion such efforts on a systematic basis.

Realizing this, many Fortune 50 companies have established the role of ‘Chief Knowledge Officer’, and in most cases the three basic responsibilities of the position can be stated as:
-Evangelizing about the importance of sharing knowledge.
-Running and backing projects that find, publish, and distribute knowledge around the firm.
-Managing the knowledge management staff.

In short, the job of the CKO is about two things: collection and connection. Both must be done.

So, what does it take to be a CKO? According to Ron Miskie, Chairman of Knowledge Transfer International, Inc.: “CKOs need basic business acumen, a sense of vision, and an entrepreneurial spirit.”

What we should also remember is that knowledge officers manage people, not technology. Therefore, it is also important that the CKO wholly understands the business they are in.

“For us, knowledge management is critical. It’s one of our four core processes – sell work, do work, manage people, and manage knowledge.”
-John Peetz, CKO, Ernst & Young

Is it not time for your agency to create an environment in which information and knowledge are shared and used more efficiently and effectively? PentaTwo thinks the time is now.

Monday, September 18, 2006

An Amazing Coincidence.

On September 18, 2006 published an article by Mr. Matthew Creamer about "Philips' Innovative Ad Campaign Makes Media the Message." In the article, Mr Creamer writes, "The medium is the message," said Eric Plaskonos, director-brand communications at Philips Electronics North America, invoking Marshall McLuhan's well-worn thinking that the way content is delivered is more important than the content itself.

Interestingly, on August 31, 2006 on this blog, it was stated (originally part of a presentation made by PentaTwo to Energy BBDO, Chicago on August 3, 2005):
The medium is the message," said Marshall McLuhan in the late sixties. How appropriate! Today, we could say, "the future of media, is the future of advertising."
Or, we could be more emphatic and say, "Media drives the business, and not the creative." "Sacrilege! Burn him!" shouts the Executive Creative Director of the Agency.
We will take it one step further: "The consumer's involvement with the media drives the business."

Friday, September 08, 2006

"The Choice Group"

Watch prime time programs on Network Television on any day of the week. Most, if not all, advertisers are doing their best to reach and influence mostly those in the age group 18-44.

Many marketers are now taking "being enamored" with this audience group, and indulging them, to new levels. They are trying to reach the 18-44 with brand extensions, product differentiation, enhanced packaging, and special promotions. All as if they are the only consumers of their products; and, this we believe is something inappropriate.

Till a few years ago, 18-44 with all its subsets, was the audience in terms of numbers, affluence, and spending patterns.

Today, and for the foreseeable future, most marketers have to admit that there is a different audience they must start reaching.

An audience that is nearly half the US Adult 18+ population, accounting for over 40% of the total US spending. This oversight, we believe, is costing marketers billions of dollars.

According to the US Census, the 45-64 age group is responsible for over 42% of total US spending (over 36% of total household spending.)

Yet, this audience is widely, and mistakenly, ignored.

PentaTwo believes this is wrong. This age group should be "The Choice Group" for many marketers. Something ignored!

We do find it intriguing that "The Choice Group" is indeed ignored. Could it be because:

  • Network Television, especially prime time is programmed only to reach the younger audiences effectively?
  • Most advertising agencies are designed to cater to the needs of the younger audiences? Look at the age of the creative groups in these agencies! Do they really think they can reach "The Choice Group" just because they are using songs like "Happy Together," and "Do You Believe in Magic?" for every other brand?
  • There is this old saying that brand loyalties are built at a young age. Today, is this not a myth?
  • Most agencies cater only to product/service categories, as opposed to specializing in gaining an uncommonly common knowledge of the consumer?

Those in "The Choice Group" are perceived to be:

  • Brand loyal consumers and they do not switch brands.
  • Hesitant to experience new products and new services.
  • The Geritol and Grecian Formula market. Today, they are even referred to as the Viagra audience and the Matlock generation!
  • A part of the total audience. The line of thinking is that the product and brand messages aimed at the younger audiences will move up the age ladder and reach them sometime and somehow.
  • Difficult to reach, just because prime time TV cannot be used efficiently.

"The Choice Group" constitutes more than just a head count. It is what is inside their head that counts:

  • They launched and shaped more successful brands than any other demographic group.
  • Their core values were shaped largely by what was going on in their world and cultures when they were about ten years old.
  • They have more in common with their own 20-year old self than they have with their 20-year old children.
  • They grew up at a time when life changed faster than during any other era.

"The Choice Group" grew up with:

  • The Vietnam War and Give Peace a Chance.
  • The Birth of Rock and Roll and The Day the Music Died.
  • Falcons and Beetles.
  • The Eagles and The Beatles.
  • Bell Bottoms and Bikinis.
  • JFK and MLK.
  • FAX and FedEx.
  • Civil Rights and Women's Lib.
  • Broadway Joe and Masterpiece Theater.
  • Cheers and Light Beers.
  • Bunker and Carson. Cannon and Gunsmoke.
  • Jumbo Jets and Mini Vans.

PentaTwo knows. We grew up with them. Some of us are still growing up. We may be middle-aged or old, but we think of ourselves as young. The word "retirement" is not in our vocabulary. We are intellectually and physically active. We have experienced more physical, cultural, financial, environmental, and technological changes in life than any other single group. We have learned by living.

Marketers and their advertising agencies need to open their eyes. Look around them. Listen to the voices. Read what is being written. They may see and hear what we do.

Many of the marketers and their agency folks may be a part of "The Choice Group." Do they see, read and hear their own messages? Something for them to think about.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

(The Sky is Falling... Part Seven)

So, what should advertising agencies do for their clients? They should develop a new set of rules:

  • Everything communicates.
  • Advertising should include all communications.
  • Every single expenditure must generate revenue for the client.
  • Brand awareness is worthless unless it results in sales.
  • Most importantly, nothing can be accomplished without putting the consumer first.

Let us take a very simplistic look at the situation.

  • A marketer manufactures a product or provides a service.
  • An advertising agency, or a brand consultancy, creates a name and a visual identity.
  • Marketing gets the product to the shelf.
  • Advertising gets the consumer to try the product.

Now, here is something that is more relevant today than ever before: The consumer creates the brand. Just look at brands like Starbucks, Google, eBay, and Whole Foods Market.

They have accomplished this by continuously getting customer feedback, sharing the knowledge freely, expertly building word-of-mouth specialists, devising specialized smaller offerings to get consumers to bite, and focusing on making consumers feel better.

Advertising agencies should redefine the role they play in helping their clients evaluate and strengthen the relationship their consumers have with the brand, at all points of contact. This is a broader and more valuable role, and at times may have little to do with traditional advertising. The role should be to create a positive and authentic brand experience for the consumer. This means:

  • Observing how the brand is actually used. Not once, not twice, but everyday.
  • Monitoring the consumer's perception of the price/value relationship.
  • Always looking at how sales and consumer service interact.

Essentially, a transformation process will have to start on how business is conducted. This can be accomplished by:

  • Re-emphasizing brand planning continuously. Start charging for planning services, as a separate service, instead of "bundling" it with creative services. This will be the trend of the future. By moving this department into a consultancy mode, it becomes a revenue center for the agency instead of it being a cost center.
  • Create a "connection planning" position/department. This will either replace the old media department or be an adjunct. Create brand contact planners.
  • Become media agnostic.
  • Encourage the creative department to to become "touch point planners."
  • Create and foster an "idea culture." Encourage/insist disciplined thinking.
  • Take a page from the old school of advertising: "Trust your guts."

There is a fine line between implications and recommendations. The way we have stated the implications sound as recommendations. They are.