News & Views

Planning From Scratch / By David Sandström

by Contagious Contributor

DDB Stockholm's CEO on how the agency is tearing up the traditional planning process

DDB Stockholm has the largest planning department in Sweden today. And planning is seen as critically important area for the agency's development.  

So why is our agency, famed for its work with VW's The Fun Theory and the Swedish Armed Forces, reinventing and reshuffling the traditional account planning roles?

The belief that planning should come up with eureka-insights that creatives love is a myth. That has never happened and will never happen. In our eyes, the classic creative brief is dead. You do not need a paper that dictates what to do before you even started working..

What the creatives need is a more continuous presence in the process. When they want and ask for information, support and knowledge, they should have it. But you shouldn't come to the table with a pre-determined insight that no one has asked for.

The idea process is the least linear process imaginable. Tomorrow's working models have to reflect this in a much better way.

We need to aid free exploration of ideas, thoughts and options from the start, without imposing artificial limits. And towards the end of idea development, help the creatives narrow down the options to the ideas with most creative and business potential, and aid them in strengthening those ideas.

As a consequence of this DDB Stockholm is turning the whole process the conventional planner role upside down: Planners no longer brief the creatives.

We are changing our view of planning from scratch. We want to re-engineer planning to create the best possible conditions for continuing to deliver ideas that make a real difference to our clients.

Insight and Conceptual Planning

To aid this change, the planning department at DDB has been divided into two areas - Insight Planning and Conceptual planning - that work like this:

Insight Planning is about providing more depth and understanding. Insight planners will help the creative team when they need to understand consumer behavior and the outside world that the client's brand operates in, and when they need to get hypotheses about consumers, the market or anything else verified.

Conceptual planning is about providing direction and a larger perspective. Conceptual planners will help the teams develop and clarify a creative direction for the client's brand, act as a sounding board during the creative process, ensuring that ideas always correspond to brief and helping the team formulate a clear unifying idea.

In this way we ensure that the right ideas rise to their full potential and leave DDB packaged in a clear and pedagogical manner. A great idea isn't worth anything if a client can't understand it, see its potential and commit to it.

Another area of improvement the planning department at DDB is exploring is the redefinition of the word 'insight'. An insight is just a truth with creative potential, after all. But this potential is not always apparent at first glance. 

We prefer to work with 'hypotheses' - actual suggestions for how to solve the specific client problem, discussing and pointing the way to potential solutions, rather than leaving the teams adrift on their own with an insight that may or may not prove valuable in the end.

This reshuffling and re-evaluation of how planning works will help foster new and better ideas for DDB Stockholm's clients.

By changing the dynamics between roles, just like Bill Bernbach did in the 60's when he first put together art directors and copywriters as a creative team, we hope to deliver even more innovative and powerful ideas in the future.

A recent example of this in action is the latest campaign for the Swedish Armed Forces, where DDB challenges the way the Facebook Likes work. Because the SAF is looking for people who really care about things and put effort into this they have placed a number of physical 'Like' stations around Sweden.

It's not always right to let strategy guide creativity, often it should be the other way around.

David Sandström is CEO at DDB Stockholm