Wednesday 29 January 2020

Agency boss goes Dutch for insights

Media & Marketing

The Coca-Cola promo in Pontevedra
The Coca-Cola promo in Pontevedra

Michael Cullen

Ad agency strategists need to reset and refresh their approach to business to stay sharp and fit for purpose. Boys + Girls' partner and head of strategy Margaret Gilsenan, recently decided to embark on a professional masters course in account planning in Amsterdam. If she was to design a course for herself she knows what she'd want and what she'd avoid.

She'd steer well clear of fake news with a course framed around a litany of post-rationalised, glossy case studies. She'd go for a forum discussing topics in detail and not just skimming over things in a one-hour lecture. She'd have to get real learnings from the proceedings and be able to put them to work back at her agency.

Boys + Girls’ partner and head of strategy Margaret Gilsenan signed up for a development course in Amsterdam
Boys + Girls’ partner and head of strategy Margaret Gilsenan signed up for a development course in Amsterdam

Gilsenan wanted to come away from the 'summer school' knowing what Boys + Girls was doing well and in what areas could they be doing better. The course in Amsterdam ran over 11 weekends, with 11 modules, from 11 planners from 11 international agencies. The downside was that it was run from Amsterdam, over Fridays and Saturdays. It was a considerable financial and time commitment from Boys + Girls, including the cost of the course itself, flights and accommodation - not to mention being out of the office every Friday for three months. But Gilsenan believes she got value.

She learned lessons from some of world's best agencies, brands, campaigns and lecturers. "What I hadn't appreciated until I attended," Gilsenan told AdLib, "was the value of learning from other attendees from agencies big and small from Brazil, Bolivia, Holland, Peru, Romania and Sweden."

What key insights did she take home? Firstly, excellence is tied to effectiveness. Planners must be as focused on creative thinking as they are in their creative output. Thinking models can be as restrictive as they can be helpful. The broader you read, watch and experience life, the more powerful your arsenal becomes in finding intriguing positions, connections and hypotheses to explore.

Gilsenan discovered that it's best to start with the problem and then interrogate it until you have it articulated as a curious problem to solve. There's no blueprint for a brilliant planner. Some people love detail and process, some fly by their seat of their pants, some are ruled by science and others by guts.

Instinct appeals to some people, while others insist insights are dead. But they all share a respect for strategic thinking in helping to create effective campaigns. One final point Gilsenan discovered - there's always more to learn.

  • Galway-based Supermac's fast food chain is rowing in behind Sightsavers Missed Moments campaign to help save the sight of 250,000 people in some of the world's poorest countries - the equivalent of the population of Galway city and county.

Missed Moments will encourage people to reflect on the impact visual impairment can have on people's lives and the special experiences they miss out on. Launched by TV presenter Síle Seoige, the campaign includes digital posters showing famous moments from Galway's history in the city's Eyre Square Shopping centre.

JCDecaux will modify the digital retail display, digital network kiosks, to allow donors tap a debit or credit card and donate €2 to Sightsavers. A short video introduces them to a visually-impaired person seeking a sight-saving operation. Donors can see the journey from darkness to sight, ending with the moment the person's bandages are removed and vision is restored. The two-week Sightsavers campaign will run from August 11.

  • Nothing drives success like success. Ray Coyle's Tayto Park in Ashbourne, Co Meath has notched up over 250,000 visitors so far this year. Housing some exotic creatures at its zoo and thrilling rides, the park's owners now hope to build new brand partnerships.

Earlier this year, Tayto Park agreed a three-year deal with Nissan Ireland to launch Ireland's first driving school for kids. The track can take 20 miniature battery-operated cars at one time. Drivers get to watch a short video on the rules of the road before negotiating the course.

  • Magazines Ireland is calling on the Irish Government to urge the European Commission to agree on Vat rates for printed and digital magazines. In a pre-Budget submission, the industry body is calling on Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe to support a zero Vat rate on magazines. Magazines Ireland chairman and Irish Studio director Ciaran Casey said UK publishers benefit from zero rate Vat and the European markets should be harmonised.

And finally... Coca-Cola came out on top in a Core Research brand poll of Irish football fans watching the World Cup on RTÉ2 Television with an 82pc score. While visiting Pontevedra in northern Spain recently, yours truly spotted a novel Coke promo. The branded stone 'caps' are used to keep sun umbrella stands in place at the train station café.

  • Michael Cullen is editor of;

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