You Must Be Kidding! A Seat at The Strategic Planning Table?

I’ve just emerged (full of new energy) from delivering a short speech to the team at OMD Australia, which was all about adding a touch of zest to the “Renegade thinking” initiative that was launched last month.  (Big thanks to Martin Cowie for inviting me to speak).

The session generated lots of positive feedback and some great questions. It seems I struck a chord!

One hot topic from the audience was the idea of using the thinking to help OMD to get input at the initial planning stage of a new campaign or strategic plan rather than being  treated as a facility for executing pre-agreed creative ideas.

The challenge therefore is to get media planning promoted from support-act to strategic tool.

The theme of my presentation was that big companies develop systems and processes to prevent failure rather than enabling success and this gets in the way of innovation.  It’s based on my highly scientific law of ‘cock-ups’ which suggests that companies invent a new process to prevent a problem re-occurring each time something goes wrong.

The result is vanilla-flavoured plans which are designed to avoid failure, rather than plans that are energetic, sparky, creative likely to succeed.

The solution I proposed for this problem is to use a mixed “bricolage” of different creative tools, techniques and behaviours to keep thinking fresh. Greenhousing, speeding, daring, prototyping (and many more) are all great weapons in the war against vanilla-flavoured thinking.

But back to the issue of getting an input to strategic planning. If the bricolage theory is correct It means the best way forward is to tackle the problem  on many fronts and to use a variety of tools and techniques to get the message across.

But let me put my neck on the block. Rather than list out a check list of options, I thought I’d share just one idea, which I’m hoping will get people talking and help to move things forward.

My idea is based on the insight that media planning is seen by clients as complex and, well, a bit less glamorous than creative development.

The inspiration for the idea comes from Australia’s cricket coach, Darren Lehmann, who transformed the fortunes of the Australian cricket team during the Ashes. (What he achieved was considerable, bearing in mind Australia’s poor test match track record before he was appointed).

His secret is in his self-deprecating and light hearted style. Here’s how the Mirror newspaper in Britain described him:

“As befits someone who goes by the nickname Boof, Lehmann is old school. He likes a laugh and a night out. He does not take himself too seriously. His players like him. Not that he is negligent about the scientific side of cricket. He just sees the importance of helping players smile.


That’s it.  Do what Darren Lehmann does and get your clients to smile.

Or to explain it in more detail, I’d suggest getting clients to enjoy the whole topic of media and media planning and what it means for their target audiences.

Turn it into a game. Tease them about it. Invent some slang to make it sound cool. Whatever it is – aim to burst the media planning bubble and get clients to grin.

Clients will love you for it and it could transform the way they engage with you.

And you never know, it might just get you invited to that next strategic planning session. LOL.

Chris Meredith is CEO of Chilli Sauce – a marketing inspiration company


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