Planning Above and Beyond 10 years old today

Bee_1 Planning Above and Beyond my consultancy opened its doors Sept 1st 2000. And what a decade it has been. My official list of what the consultancy offers is 4 fold: communications planning, market research, facilitation and training. I took some time in August to review the 200+ projects and nearly 100 clients over the last 10 years. My thanks to all but here is a short list of those who gave me most business in a given year followed by those who made life more intersting. 

2000/1 – Jon McKie for giving me a load more planning work to do from my last agency CDP.

Jon Wigram of Arc for getting me to formulate the game theory of EDLP everyday low pricing for sales promotion professionals on both sides of the fence.

And Drusilla Gabbot for not letting me hand over my slides about integration for training I was running with her until I had published an article in Admap about it. Which is now listed as a classic on the WARC website.

2001/2 Robin Jaffray of McCanns for asking me to summarise each of Microsoft UK's key audiences in 700 words (today we call these personas)

Ron Leagas of EdgeIdeas now BLAC for recruiting me to research New Look stores  – using every form of qualitative research known EXCEPT focus groups because the MD of New Look hated them.

2002/3 Edmund Jones and Jim Groves of DJSJW for projects on travel and one that got me started with researching websites.

Mike Elms and Zoja Pascalevic of Da Vinci who commissioned me to design a planning development process for an international media startup.This thinking has now mutated into a method for evaluating content and sponsorship partners.

2003/4 Michelle Shepherd and Jocelyn Grant of Forward for using me to research a whole range of contract publishing pitches

Michael Harvey of Diageo for sponsoring a project which became an award winning paper at the Market Research Conference of 2004: best new thinking. Which was nice. My first encounter with semiotics, ethnography and discourse analysis.

John Ayton of Links of London for asking me back for the 3rd consecutive year to facilitate a business development workshop for the management team

2004/5 Adib Nachabe of Publicis Graphics for persuading his team to fly to London to work with me on a pitch because I couldn't fly there at the time!And then arranging for me to train his entire agency in Jeddah when I was in the Middle East speaking at a IAA conference in Jordan.

Guillaume Van der Stighelen of Duval Guillaume and Edwin van Dijken of Spa Netherlands for inviting me to use the Brand Screenplay technique with Spa Netherlands

John Ayton again for referring me to his business network so a whole new range of business problems to solve

And Adobe for donating their training lab so I could run multimedia training courses for researchers to learn how to use multimedia in research projects.

2005/6 Nick Barton of IHG who asked me to validate the proposed design for Holiday Inn across Europe and gave me only 6 weeks to do it. We created a European research agency to deliver.  We delivered on time. I even got to work with an anthropologist on this one!

Costin Radu who had been in touch as a student – arranged for me to come and run planning training in Romania – the first of series of visits to work with the marketing and agency community in this exciting country.

2006/7 David Kratt and the late lamented Iain Dunn for getting me to mix education with the defence industry on a truly interesting project 

Tom Woodnutt of Hall & Partners for using me to work on the development of their online Qualitative offering. This was the year I really started to get involved in online research – revolutionising our industry.

2007/8 Kate Wheaton of ehsBrann for getting me in to work on numerous pitches but also introducing me to Tesco to sort an issue with ClubCard – a particular tricky and rewarding methodology came out of this one. And a great example of how to use smallscale qualitative research to solve huge business conundrums.

Matthew Coombe and James Aitchison of WARC who decided I was a useful enough blogger to be deployed to write accounts of a whole series of conferences – considerably adding to my knowhow in the process!

2008/9 Teachers TV for returning to me a second time to develop their market positioning

The IE business school Madrid for signing me up as a visiting professor to teach the research component of their online MBA course. A dark secret is that if you really want to learn something at a deep level. Then teach it. I've learned so much by training practioners from round the world who dialogue with me without leaving their desks. I'm now teaching this course again in its 3rd year.

2009/10 Emma Janson Smith of Meteorite for using me to plan or research a series of pitches and work on a healthcare trust – which involved among other things a group of mental patients and a very disturbed and stroppy group of psychiatrists and social workers!

David Bausola and Tom Himpe of Ag8 for getting me involved in the Purefold transmedia project for Ridley Scott – the coolest brief of 2009. Another outing for my brand screenplay workshop methodology.

The Market Research Society for shortlisting my paper the Cloud of Knowing for Best new thinking (again) and Best Presentation. This emerged from the open source group of the same name I have been running this last 12 months. That's how the best ideas get developed these days.

Oh and the MRS again for acknowledging this year that the Reseach Liberation Front of which I am a founder has in creating an annual playful fringe event for the conference changed the content of the whil  conference for the better. 

 A brief summary of the highlights which leaves no room to mention the wonderful people I have worked with. You know who you are.  I could never have imagined that the last 10 years would be quite so diverse and rewarding. And the breadth of business problems Planning Above and Beyond has been asked to address. As I look forward to the next decade I wonder whether it will be more of the same or different. Based on the list above I think it will be different. One of the more depressing experiences I have from time to time is meeting people who complain that their businesses are stuck, trapped, starved of budgets and innovative ideas. That they are never allowed to do anything. This has not been my experience this last 10 years and I am humbled and really grateful for the opportunities we have been given.

Just in case you're wondering about the bee logo and where that came from. That was donated by Iain Lettice – brilliant graphic designer and I adopted it because of the Waggledancers project – yet another initiative. Beehives are full of strategists – why have just one? Who dance to show the other bees where to find the nectar.  Its not how much nectar you find, its how much you persuade others to carry. Which summarises my determination not to do everything myself but by putting teams together and facilitating and training enabling the learning and growing to continue.

Oh and I almost forgot the website which I haven't properly updated in 5 years now since the blogging tsunami hit but which has attracted so many comments from friends and borrowers over the years. It spawned the planning drinks night funded by book sales 2001, the author interview podcast (2003) and other innovations which are now considered commonplace.  In those days I added web content once a month because that was all that was needed. Difference kettle of fish now.. I started it because the only planning being written about was advertising planning and I was passionate about all sorts of planning as a planner working on integrated business through the 1990s. Now planning is a global phenomenon. And no one would dream of starting an agency without a planner. Or confiding planning to advertising. This decade was the one where planning escaped out of the advertising box (and the UK) for good. And its brilliant to see it.  





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