Every major Agency network talks about its proprietary planning process. They give it a catchy name and showcase it in all their Client presentations. The implication is that they have found the silver bullet to great ideas. Follow these five steps and you will turn a Marketing Problem into a powerful and foolproof Communication Program. And they roll out many case studies to show Clients how they have built Brands using this process.
The truth is that the Tool is seldom used in the majority of projects that go through the Agency.
The Tool exists for other reasons:
The first reason is that the Agency needs to be able to convince its Clients that it can predictably deliver great results across a wide variety of categories and countries. The capabilities of the Agency go beyond the intelligence of a few senior people. Working with this wonderful tool, even more junior people can deliver results, when the more senior ones are not available.
The second reason is that Advertisers tend to be highly process oriented. In their own business they have well thought out processes that guarantee the consistent high quality of their product. Why should Idea Generation be any different? When the Agency talks about process they are preaching to the choir.
The third and most important reason for the existence of the process is to provide cover for the real chaos of Idea Generation. If their Clients were to know the ugly truth about how the process actually happens they would be terrified. The fact that a Tool and a Process exist helps ensure that their Clients sleep better at night.
The fourth reason for the existence of the Tool is purely competitive. If an Agency does not have a Tool and a Process to talk about they run the risk of being at a disadvantage versus other Agencies. In a credentials presentation, the more clever the tool, the more impressed the Client will be, or so the thinking goes.
The interesting factor in this is that Agencies tend to come up with a new process every three years or so.
Why change something that works? And why change it so frequently?
The answer is simple and chilling. They change it because the “proprietary planning process” does not consistently lead to great Ideas.
They change it because it does not work.
There is no substitute for intelligence, experience, hard work and talent.