When I Used To Be A Planner

Our Amsterdam-side strategic initiatives director, Lydia Jones, is a planner no more. Oh, hold on, she's more a planner now than ever. Think we'd best let her explain...

When I first uttered those fateful words, ‘when I used to be a planner’, in my second week at Crowd DNA, I had a little moment. Am I really not a planner anymore? After eight years in advertising with that job title, it felt weird to relinquish it. But with three months now at Crowd getting stuck in all over the place – from toothbrushes to cheese – I realise I’m might be more of a planner now than I was at any ad agency.

Gone are the days when agencies had in-house research departments with a team dedicated to moderating groups, setting up surveys, doing your desk research, and running TGI reports. Gone too are the days when every project had two months of planning time, where planners shut themselves away in a room and stroked their beards, noodling over the precise articulation of a proposition. These days, you’re lucky if you get two weeks. So planners now have to do their own research and mostly that means turning to their trusty friend Google. Trouble is, everyone else also has access to the same free but never-the-right-markets, never-the-right-target, or perfect-but-from-2005, reports that you do. So a planner ends up making do and extrapolating, ie, ‘making shit up’. Many planners are highly skilled at Making Shit Up. They have to be. I know I was. My strategies were a thing of beauty!

In my ad career, I’ve worked at many different agencies: direct, digital, above the line, old school, new school, old dinosaur, and shiny new start up, And apart from a handful of groups, a couple of surveys, and a few hastily put together vox pops for pitches, I never did any primary research. Never. In eight years. Most of the time, I didn’t even have access to proper secondary research (Mintel subscriptions were cut along with the free fruit). So it’s no wonder most planners nowadays are expert storytellers and deck crafters, but pretty terrible when it comes to talking to real people.

That’s partly the reason why I joined Crowd. To actually do some proper primary research, a skill I should’ve been well versed in by now. But secondly, I joined Crowd because they get those challenges faced by agencies today. They work fast, they tell stories, and they don’t make planners wade through hundreds of terribly ugly powerpoint charts. And they’re nice.

We are an agencies’ research department. We are their planners. Bonus being they don’t have to fork out for breakfast for us every day.

Nice to see our Bauer Media Millennials work getting shared with the trade audience. This one involved a number of phases over 12 months, and lots of collaborating on themes and story telling, resulting in some crystal clear insights...

You can read/view more about the work via this nice collaboration with The Drum that Bauer Media have put together. The findings take in detailed exploration of media habits, new typologies and some well honed pointers for advertisers.

Here's the methods we used
Here's the methods we used

And here’s some video material from the work…

Our innovation knowledge leader, Aurelie Jamard, reports that Gens Y and Z haven't lost their enthusiasm for cars. They're just hungry to see a greater push for innovation and for understanding how needs are changing. Green light, let's go...

In a recent report published by Ford, the brand decided to focus their research on Gen Z (young people born after 1993, according to Ford’s definition). Interesting stuff, but while it’s important to understand the digital lifestyle and aspirations of the youngest among us, the broader Millennials set shouldn’t be left out of the equation as they’ve pioneered the changes and trends that now increasingly characterise their Gen Z peers in Western economies. Most Millennials, when hit by the recession, started to review luxury codes and perceptions of status, but also blur the boundaries between owning and renting or sharing.

However, an important factor is that this generation still seems open to the idea of owning cars. Will it be the same for Gen Z as they reach the legal driving age? Gen Z are the true digital natives – they were born with smartphones in their hands; they know how to navigate the web and use it to their advantage. They’re socially active, defend the environment and their community, and they are at the heart of the sharing economy (think AirBnB, Uber, SupperKing, etc). Looking ahead to 2015 and beyond, many of the key trends listed below were conceived and shaped by Millennials, but it’s Gen Z that will really drive them forwards.


Five Trends For 2015

From tech that's aligned to our feelings, to motivational branding, our trends knowledge leader, Rebecca Coleman, reports on five trends set to impact on our lives, and thus on business, in the 12 months ahead…

Hello 2015! The rapid and consistent economical, technological, political and cultural shifts taking place make it hard to keep up. So, we’ve analysed what’s going on in the world and defined five actionable macro trends that you can apply to your business in 2015. Each one has three cultural drivers explaining the roots of the trend and three impacts that define how they will manifest themselves in the year ahead.


Hello USA

Following our successful launch in Amsterdam, Crowd DNA intends to set up shop in the US in 2015, building on our burgeoning track record there with clients in the tech, media/social media, entertainment, FMCG and retail sectors (also lots of work with creative agencies, digital agencies etc)...

San Francisco is our most likely base camp and we’re keen to start conversations with those who we may be able to work with – by which we mean potential recruits (at all levels of experience/seniority), freelancers, suppliers, partner companies and assorted specialists. Yes, we know, we’re not exactly narrowing things down there, but now’s the time to cast a wide net. To discuss Crowd DNA’s launch in the US further, please email Andy Crysell

Kling Klang-ery!

Kling Klang* glory, this quarter, goes to one of our consultants, Alice Ellen. She picks it up for very fine work masterminding a project for one of our alcohol clients; also for great endeavours in debrief design and for truly flying the flag for our cultural strategy ethos. Big well dones, then, to Alice...

*The Kling Klangs, just in case they’re not quite globally famous yet, are Crowd DNA’s awards for the greatest of the great of our bloody great team.

Beer Innovations In 2014

From new digital platforms to an ale that apparently helps you get fit, Crowd DNA's knowledge leader in innovation, Aurelie Jamard, cracks open a selection of new ideas in beer from 2014...

Yes, we’ve decided to talk about beer at a time when Coke is tentatively trying to launch lactose-free milk (not without a few hurdles…), and when everyone’s stocking up on mulled wine and bubbly for the festive season. But we’ve seen some interesting moves in the category this year and we’d like to review some trends that are influencing innovations and will undoubtedly keep doing so in 2015.

2014 was the year that really highlighted the decline of Millennials’ interest in beer to the advantage of wine and spirits (and, worse, healthy drinks!). This generation of consumers, better educated and more socially active than ever, turned to more sophisticated drinks but also demanded more transparency and authenticity from brands in the category. The trends and innovations below attempt to sum up some of the most significant changes that happened to the industry in the past months.

Crafty, authentic, local

Craft beers have of course been the massive hit of 2014. Consumers in search of authenticity, quality and locality have united to support small breweries and discover new draughts. Most recently, Diageo launched two new craft versions of its Guinness beer, and the BeerBods platform went live after reaching its Crowdcube goal of £155,000 in 36 hours. The aim of the platform? To enable its members to discover different craft beers at their leisure, for a quarterly fee of £36.

Women drinkers as the new target

2014 has been a year of strong female centric campaigns, such as Always’ #LikeAGirl and the UN’s Emma Watson-supported HeForShe initiative. And the link with beer? 2014 has seen SAB Miller pledge to change the image of beer by launching products designed to appeal to female drinkers. The popularity of new beer products across the category, such as Radlers and fruit ciders, is another manifestation of this trend and has helped foster a move towards less male dominated innovations.

New luxury for Millennials

In one of our Crowd DNA events this year we talked about new interpretations of luxury among youth. It’s a revised definition that spans across categories and has raised challenges in some quarters. But it’s definitely had an impact on the beer industry in 2014. Initiatives like House Of Peroni have contributed to raising the profile of the Italian premium beer among affluent, young UK consumers. Another interesting move came from MillerCoors: the company created a new beer with stronger alcohol content called Miller Fortune, designed to attract Millennials whose preference has been for spirits lately. With its biggest launch in six years, the brand also contributed to fuelling the new, fast growing and high margin “above premium” beer category.

So despite a growing trend for the consumption of healthy products, the beer industry is starting to adapt, which promises an exciting year of innovations ahead. But the focus on healthy drinks isn’t something that the category has to miss out on altogether. Canadian company VAMPT Brands recently launched its Lean Machine Ale – packed with antioxidants and electrolytes, making it the first fitness-enhancing beer, it’s ideal for bodies in recovery mode after a session at the gym.

And the other way round works, too. It looks like soft drinks are following in the footsteps of the beer industry, with Pepsi launching its ‘craft soda’ called Caleb’s Kola in some test states in the US. So what kind of innovations can we expect in the beer industry in 2015? Drop me a line if you want to find out more. Over a beer or otherwise, we’d love to discuss these with you.

Insight and innovation agency Crowd DNA is looking to make a senior appointment in 2015, bringing on board a new business and strategy director to play a lead role collaborating closely with the managing director and management team in the UK (also working with senior staff in our Amsterdam office, with further overseas offices on schedule for launch in 2015 as well)...

The primary focus of the role is on selling the Crowd DNA offering as effectively as possible: from pitches and the pipeline, to co-developing the longer term strategy and making sure that this remains an exciting, innovative business fully in tune with the ever changing needs of the marketplace.

While we’re of course keen to speaking to people with experience in the insight and innovation industry, we are also open to meeting with those who bring experience from different fields in marketing comms, media etc. It’s absolutely vital to be commercially minded and to truly enjoy the challenges of winning business, but an outright sales Rottweiler is not what we need – this is as much about problem solving, collaboration and creative thinking as ‘sealing the deal’. And thus while we do anticipate speaking with people currently in business development/commercial roles, we are also open to those with the right type of experience on other fronts who wish to make a switch into a more commercial space.

The Pipeline

We’ll call it the pipeline because that’s the standard industry language, though we like to consider it a more rounded, less mechanical responsibility. But whatever we call it, we need someone who can handle the sales process in a manner that’s aligned with Crowd DNA’s business culture: energetically and purposefully but with a primary focus on getting us speaking to the right type of brands and in the right type of ways; i.e., we don’t view this as simply a numbers games; we want to put ourselves in a place to win lots of work, of course, but we also want to make sure we’re winning the work that adds value to the culture of Crowd DNA. We therefore seek someone who demonstrates a genuine enthusiasm for understanding what makes brands tick and for relating to the challenges they face.

Proposals & Pitches

You will take the lead on writing proposals – often as the main author of them; sometimes overseeing the work of others. We view proposal writing as a creative proposition, about brilliant project design – we want exciting ideas, stimulating upfront thinking, bold solutions and lots of energy; we don’t want cut and paste rehashes or a reliance on templates. We get given incredibly exciting challenges from brands in sectors such as social media/media, tech, FMCG, entertainment and retail, and we need someone willing to dive head first into these challenges. While you will be taking the lead, this is a collaborative process: we want someone with an ability to manage others and involve them in the business development process in a way that is meaningful and has impact. No small additional point: you’ll need a bright and lively writing style and a strong sense of how to present work in a visually stimulating fashion.

Attention To The Details

There’s no escaping the need to have a good head for the details: costing things carefully, managing disparate timelines, effective hand over of new work to the project teams in a fashion that provides them with the information they need to deliver the work both with inspiration and on budget.

Strategic Thinking

This is by no means just about the business we win this month, nor the meetings we set up next month. We want someone who is open to change and innovation, both on a more micro level (new methods, new sectors) and the more macro (will Crowd DNA still be best termed as an insight and innovation business in, say, five years time or will it have morphed into something different?). We’re looking for someone to have a big impact on the business in this sense – helping us stay exciting and culturally enriching for our team and bold and commercially relevant to clients.

Understanding The Business

Crowd DNA has an entrepreneurial mindset and we need you to have one too. Like all good businesses we have a culture that needs learning, methods that need getting to grips with. We cannot overstate the importance of finding someone who can demonstrate that they are on the right wavelength for working at Crowd DNA.

We offer a competitive package and the chance to have a big impact on a business that’s fresh, exciting and primed for further growth. To get the ball rolling, please respond with a covering letter, CV and, ideally, examples of your work that you believe relevant, to Andy Crysell