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‘The truth is our client’ Saatchi & Saatchi strategy boss tells planners at Google event

Lonsdale speaking at the eent

Lonsdale speaking at the event

Planners need to refocus on understanding humanity and be “obsessed with the truth” according to a panel of industry leaders at the first Google Firestarters event to be held outside the UK or US.

At last night’s event in Sydney Saatchi & Saatchi executive planning director Jason Lonsdale said agencies need to move away from advertising-based solutions.

“I would argue the truth is our client, the truth is our responsibility at an agency,” he said. “Creatives are obsessed with awards and doing cool stuff, suits are obsessed with keeping the clients happy, we should be obsessed with the truth.”

He added: “Our default tendency is advertising shaped problems, we will see things through that lens if we don’t change that lens and be less myopic about what our outputs could be we will see everything as a potential TV ad and we can do way more than that.

“It’s a mindset shift.”

Lonsdale was speaking on a panel which included Google’s head of strategic planning Abigail Posner, Isobar executive strategy director Simon Small and Droga5 CEO Sudeep Gohil talking about the future of planning and strategy and how the industry is shaping itself following the digital revolution.

The panel (l-r): Lonsdale,  Small, Gohil, Posner

The panel (l-r): Lonsdale, Small, Gohil, Posner

“Understanding humans is one of the future aspects of planning,” Gohil told the audience.

“Being part of culture is more important than any strategy you can come up with because no one turns around and says I love that strategy or I love that ad, instead they talk about things they love which is generally not the stuff we create.”

He added: “Digital is just another part of popular culture – it’s not a thing anymore. As such the most important thing is understanding people, understanding culture and figuring out where those two things intersect.

“That’s the stuff people care about.”

“The world is changing and planners need to stop and think about the impact of that,” Lonsdale said. “Our survival depends on our ability to adapt, to evolve.”

Posner said planners want to impact culture and asking the questions: “Why do people do what they do, why do they care about what they care about, why do they live the way they live? Why are we dying from car accidents? Why do we have such high rates of diabetes?

“At the core of what we care about is humanity. At the end of the day why are we doing what we’re doing? We want to impact culture.”

Both Posner and Lonsdale emphasised the importance of action, doing something as opposed to just saying something.

“We’re a maker culture,” Posner said about Google.

“In our planning department we force ourselves to come up with things, we turn everything into a thing. Words are cheap, you have to codify it, have a name for it, turn it into something real, something tangible.”

Posner suggested to the audience that it is ok for these things to be in “beta” mode.

“You don’t have to be perfect, just get it out there, 80 per cent is fine,” she said.

“The assumption is you’re going to evolve it, you’ll be open to feedback because you haven’t killed yourself or extended so much effort to make it perfect.”

Saatchi & Saatchi’s Lonsdale placed emphasis on briefs getting creatives to do something as opposed to just saying something.

“We have to have an orientation to action, briefs that start with do something, celebrate something, prove something; anything but say something. Revolution starts with language and asking creatives to say something gets you to ads and that’s a terrible thing,” he  said.

Miranda Ward

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