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The joy of the journey


Maybe it’s just the social algorithm talking, but it feels like the world is inundated with ‘shortcuts’ and ‘hacks’ at the moment.

The “I’ve met with over 500 startups and here are the 3 fundamental drivers of success” type posts. The “I’ve done the hard work, so you don’t have to” type content.

In our endeavour to get to the answer quicker, we’ve not only started to rely on shortcuts, but have leap frogged over the essential steps of the journey.

Yes, we are all time poor. Yes, we’ve never been busier. Yes, we find it difficult to balance work, children, and social life (Definitely Agree, thanks TGI). And so there are times when a quick hack is warranted. When jumping to the answer is justified.

But this trend is bleeding into the way we act at work. The way we plan. In skipping the journey from question to answer, from brief to campaign, we are missing out on the opportunity to truly understand the problem at hand. Working through the process creates:

  • An opportunity to get things wrong and course correct.
  • An opportunity to go down a dead end and have to re-think.
  • An opportunity to explore.

It is time for a reset. Time to once again re-focus on and appreciate the process and the journey. To hone our craft and truly elevate our planning.

It’s a process that is going to become increasingly important as we see our industry transform. The rise of AI, the productization of planning, the availability of robust data has and will create a climate where it’s increasingly easy to get straight to the ‘answer’. But in doing so we run the risk of everything looking and feeling the same. Everyone will get to the same AI-driven answers, take the same ‘easy’ shortcuts, and ultimately jump to the same conclusions.

Take the automotive category for example. A parade of carbon copy media plans in a category screaming out for some differentiation.

Advertising is not an absolute blunt force. We’re here to create a disproportionate advantage for our clients, over their competitors. The only way to do that is to throw ourselves into the planning process. To appreciate each and every step of the journey and find all of those opportunities to elevate our clients’ brands above any beyond anyone else.

Failure to do so sends us hurtling towards (albeit robust) mediocrity, and in the complex, pressured categories our clients exist in, that’s not enough.

And so, we need to refocus on the journey. The journey from brief, to campaign, via research, data mining, noodling away at ideas, getting lost in TGI, chatting to real people, scribbling notes. Because that’s where planning comes to life. That’s where our best work is done.

My rallying cry to the planning world in 2024. Don’t take the easy shortcut. Don’t jump to the obvious answer. Throw yourself into the journey and enjoy every step.

 The journey helps you find the destination

If you jump to the answer, you assume the question was right in the first place. The questions we’re asked are not always the best ones and unfortunately, they’re sometimes the wrong ones. So, make sure briefings are face to face. Take the time to question the question itself. Look at other alternatives. Ensure you don’t skip this critical step in the journey as is defines every proceeding step will ensure focus remains on the right destination.

The journey drives innovation

The best ideas, the best innovations, the best creativity tends to come from sitting on a question for a while. Mulling it over in your subconscious and letting your brain make those random connections. If we shortcut the process and jump to the end, we don’t give ourselves and our teams the time to ruminate and so we’ll miss the chance for our brains to stumble upon the curve ball answer. So, scribble thoughts down, talk to people about them, get other curious minds to help with the problem. In doing so you’ll create the environment for those little ‘aha’ moments. That piece of inspiration that takes the work from thorough to unrivalled.

The journey breeds deep understanding

It seems like the most obvious one, but also the most fundamental. The breadth of challenges we help our clients tackle, and the speed at which things move mean that developing a deep understanding of our industry is vital. We need to be able to develop transferrable skills and knowledge that can take us from client to client, from challenge to challenge, from role to role and that knowledge can only be accumulated by truly understanding the steps involved. In an increasingly tech-driven world, the value of humans has never been greater. Our ability to think above and beyond the algorithm and to truly elevate the craft of planning remains a purely human trait and one we need to nurture.

And so, consider the answer not as an isolated end point, but as a culmination of the journey. Consider the journey as a crucial component in getting to the right destination, pushing the boundaries, and developing your craft.

“I’ve learned that joy is not the destination, but the journey.” – Greg Anderson (American Author)

Article published in The Drum.

Andy Collins
Head of Planning

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