Ahead of the IPA Strategic Planning Residentials, executive planning directors and co-chairs Angela Morris (JWT) and Jordan Price (BWM Dentsu) share their insights on the current state of play for planners and why the role of the strategic planner has become so complicated.

This year’s course is all about changing perspectives – why is now the best time to revisit key principles in marketing?

Jordan Price: The last five to 10 years in marketing / advertising / brand building has been turbulent. The Digital Revolution has opened up – and continues to uncover – previously un-imagined new possibilities for how brands can connect and interact with people. Disruption has been rampant. That’s a good thing, in general; creative destruction propels things forward. But it has also brought with it a lot of unhelpful distractions in the form of shiny new bells and whistles, over-hyped-yet-ultimately-false promises, new jargon and buzzwords to hide bad strategy behind, a tsunami of data to drown in, and (I’d argue, at least) an over-reliance on ‘the answer is in the data’ over good old-fashioned thinking. This has led to a lot of confusion and disorientation, and some bad decision-making as a result – the worst impact from it all being a growing tendency toward short-termism that threatens the coherence and long-term potential of brands. On the positive side, the dust has started to settle a little recently. The hysteria has died down to a certain extent. Practical realities are being realised. (One example: Facebook has relatively recently gone from promising 1-1 marketing, to the more honest stance of being a “super-mass media”.) Sane voices are starting to be heard above what has been an overwhelming din, and experienced marketers are starting to see through some of the false hope sold over the last number of years. So now feels like a great time to help encourage a re-assessment of what really works and what really matters in making brands matter to people.

Angela Morris: There have never been more ways to reach people than we have today, but it’s never been harder, because audiences are cynical, marketing fatigued and increasingly indifferent. Nor have the principles, tools and tactics of our trade come under more question in terms of how viable they are. It’s our responsibility to critically assess how marketing is working (and not working) and take nothing – new or old doctorines – at face value in our relentless pursuit of marketing effectiveness.

How has the role of the strategic planner changed?

Angela Morris: The strategic planner has always worn many hats – it’s never been as simple as ‘the voice of the consumer’ or ‘ad tweaker vs grand strategist’ – but now the number of hats has multiplied exponentially. Planners are in demand and influential from end to end; from top table thinking to in market real time optimization. There are a lot of skills to master and new knowledge generated all the time. It’s a fast moving field of work and that makes this a particularly exciting time to be a planner.

Jordan Price: It’s gotten a lot more complicated. Strategy in marketing / advertising / brand building has always been difficult. It has always required both right and left-brain aptitude; skills in data analysis and free associative thinking; the ability to keep both big picture and critical detail in mind at the same time; the ability to see what everyone else sees yet think about it differently; the ability to boil down to key issues and clarify choices; the ability to recognise ambiguity and ruthlessly crush it – all in the service, ultimately, of getting to deeper insights that, if tapped into properly, drive a much more meaningful place in people’s lives for the brand you’re working on. That’s hard enough. Now all that still applies, but in a world that is almost data-toxic, and so reliant on ‘proof’ for any choice that, again in my humble opinion, it is actually hampering rather than helping brands by braver and meaningfully different.

What are you looking forward to most at this year’s residential course?

Jordan Price: The debate. I think we have a great list of speakers, and a fascinating mix of speaking and work-shopping activities. I’m looking forward to vigorous differences of opinion playing out, and being exposed to points of view that differ from my own, and may go places I’ve not thought about.

Angela Morris and Jordan Price will co-chair the IPA Strategic Planning course in Sydney and Melbourne, respectively.

Course information:

IPA Residentials are designed for delegates to step away from the day-to-day business for three days of intensive mentoring, analysis, debate and interactive learning that can be applied the very next day. Accommodation and meals are included.