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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

PAAB – 8 years on

Planning Above and Beyond: 10 highlights from the first eight years

In the first 8 years of working under the Planning Above and Beyond banner here are some of the highlights.  There are plenty more from 2009 to 2013 but I haven’t caught up with this page yet! 

 2001 New Look felt the focus groups run by their then ad agency weren’t giving a true picture of what customers really thought of New Look. So I ran a project using every methodology except groups – diaries, accompanied paired depths, out of the wardrobe interviews as customers talked about the clothes they bought, and finally a Brand Safari – a client customer workshop. Helping to define how the stores were working and how to merchandise them. This was shortlisted in the first Marketing research awards of 2003

 2001 Every Day Low Pricing research with IMP now Arc and their client Mars. Interviews with buyers and sales staff on both sides of the divide to devise strategies for escaping the downward spiral of price promotions mostly driven by trade issues.

 2002 Developed 600 word ‘holistic’ customer profiles for every one of Microsoft’s segments so that any supplier from design through to PR could use a common definition.

 2003 Developing a campaign development methodology for an international media consultancy start-up. Based on the idea that finding a media channel is like dating. By identifying suitable channel partners it was possible to be far more selective about the media schedules that were constructed. Spent time in the US working with international clients on this.

 2003 Asked to research a failed direct holiday brochure launch 6 months previously. Got respondents to try and buy a holiday using competitive brochures then gave them the failed brochure in the groups. Got to the problem within seconds.

 2003 Got Diageo to sponsor a paper for the Market Research conference. Involving a collaboration with a semiotician, an ethnographer and a literary critic. Diageo paid for us to research ways of stopping binge drinking. Part way throught the project the MRS were warning us about consequences of breaking their code. Getting particularly upset because the research involved drunken people (quelle surprise!). The paper won the prize for best new thinking at the 2004 conference, it was shortlisted for best paper and best innovation for research practice.

 2004 Makeup for Tesco. As preparation for researching makeup for Tesco I blagged my way onto an advanced Virgin V trainers makeup course making up my wife for 3 hours and getting a job offer in the process! Apparently male makeup artists are more highly prized than female because they tell the truth! My wife won’t let me make up strange women. Ran a further 2 projects for Tesco on make up and skin care after this.

 2004 Invited back for the third year running to run Links of London’s management workshop. They had gone for a pattern of fast growth and the 2 day event was designed to work through the key issues for each coming year.

 2005 Visits to Croatia and Jordan to speak at advertising conferences on the topic of integrated comms and writing brand screenplays. The Jordan trip was followed up by a trip to Saudi Arabia to train 2 agencies in planning thinking. First time I’ve had to finish a session early because it was prayer time!

 2005 Asked to turn around a pan European research project in 6 weeks. About the future development of a hotel chain. Built a team of 4 to cover 6 cities in 3 countries – fortunately we didn’t have to cover France and Russia as well in the time! First time I’ve worked with a corporate anthropologist too.

2006 highlight 2006 The year I got asked to work in Romania twice training for their International Advertising Association chapter plus a number of local agencies. Away from work I managed to get to the mountains, go to a Romanian wedding, play guitar in a bar till the small hours and persuade the agency strategists to meet up in the Amsterdam bar for an evening’s drinking. Other highlights of the year included working on a pan European campaign for HP and running a screenplay workshop for a mineral water brand in Holland.

2006 highlight 2007 So far – too much to mention (20 clients by the end of August) but running a workshop in the business area of the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin was a pleasure – what better way to finish a day’s work with a pint of Guinness looking over the Dublin rooftops?

2006 highlight 2008 Not over yet but it has been a year full of surprises. I contributed an article to a book of papers about planning published in the USA and found that Malcolm Gladwell was a fellow contributor. Which was nice. I’ve run training for many more types of organisations including the Market Research Society and TNS. I finish the year with a date in the diary to run a workshop at the annual MRS conference next March alongside Elena Ionita of Burnetts – on the topic of ad cliches. We think you can use ad cliches to make better ads. And in March we’ll tell you all about it.


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