Notes from a Paris Cafe

This is a shortened version of a column in AdMap May 2010,

The AdMap round table on the Future of Planning  certainly made good reading. Comprising the thoughts of some of the most eminent planners in Anglo-Saxon advertising, how could it not?

But I started wondering if these are the people best placed to see where the answers lie.

Seen from France, there’s an obvious direction for planning to evolve: further along the road it is now. While UK planning started as a way of optimising communications, and has evolved to make creative planning a high art, planning in France has always been more about the brand. It was never about giving creatives the communications idea, more about giving them a differentiated brand idea.

French agencies think more like English brand consultants than English advertising planners. Our agency in Paris, the biggest in France, is called ‘Publicis Conseil’ i.e. Publicis Advice, not Publicis Advertising, and for many years, its positioning was ‘The Holistic Difference’. The big agencies in France have large corporate affairs units of ‘Consultants’ that do the high-level brand thinking that UK and American clients have often moved in-house. So it’s easy to see why Disruption came from TBWA Paris: it comes from a holistic brand approach that is typically French.

This space, which agencies have vacated in many countries, is going to become the high ground more than ever before. As the role of the agency mutates from producing content (chiefly advertising) to managing the conversation about brands, you cannot avoid managing the brand holistically.

There is an increasingly thin line between brand and advertising. As agencies, we like to think that the advertising is the brand. In fact, it’s the other way around: the brand is the advertising. What use is it, after all, producing advertising that tells people nice things about your bank brand, if the internet is awash with vitriol about its poor call-centres? Conversation analysis makes it evident that each thing you do is part of the brand, whether you think it’s marketing or not.

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