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Planning for the Best: Getting Great Ideas from A to B with Miruna Baias


Cheil | Centrade's strategy lead on respect and empathy, the prestige of effectiveness and finding out what makes people tick

Planning for the Best: Getting Great Ideas from A to B with Miruna Baias

Miruna Baias is an up-and-coming strategist from Bucharest, Romania. She’s currently leading the strategy department of Cheil | Centrade Romania, the hub for Southeast Europe of the Korean network Cheil Worldwide. 

Her experience is a powerful mix of business advisory and advertising, working with PwC and Publicis Romania before her current role. She believes creativity and empathetic customer understanding are the two building blocks of successful business altogether, not just advertising. 

LBB> What do you think is the difference between a strategist and a planner? Is there one?

Miruna> In advertising there is no difference. The confusion, I think, stems from the fact that we’re used to hearing about 'strategies' in military and political contexts, while the word ‘planning’ is used in our daily life. The account planning department and the strategy department is one and the same. 

LBB> And which description do you think suits the way you work best?

Miruna> Strategy is closely linked to novel ideas and it describes the core of the planners’ work: deliver great ideas that get brands from point A to B. I enjoy solving problems that are difficult to solve, more than bringing to light end-to-end strategies or crafting communication plans, but that’s a personal preference.

LBB> We’re used to hearing about the best creative advertising campaigns, but what’s your favourite historic campaign from a strategic perspective? One that you feel demonstrates great strategy?

Miruna> I really enjoy campaigns where you can tell there was one person working on the brief who respected the target audience enough to take the time to truly understand it. Some of my favourites are TBWA/London’s PlayStation: Double Life campaign, Rams Trucks: Farmer by the Richard’s Group or the latest Bodyform UK ad – Periodsomnia by AMV BBDO. 

LBB> When you’re turning a business brief into something that can inform an inspiring creative campaign, do you find the most useful resource to draw on?

Miruna> We’re trying to win over people, so we really need to find out what makes them tick. After covering all our 'need to know' basis, we usually check-out reviews and comments on the topic or on the product – consumers are the most honest there. The most valuable resource to draw on, however, is talking to people directly, no doubt about it. 

LBB> What part of your job/the strategic process do you enjoy the most?

Miruna> Cracking briefs. Nothing beats that feeling for me, not even winning new business. Getting there is a bit messy, but I love the process, which is why I’m thankful this job exists. Deep Diving into topics, becoming the consumer myself, talking to people and brainstorming solutions are all activities that I truly enjoy. 

LBB> What strategic maxims, frameworks or principles do you find yourself going back to over and over again? Why are they so useful?

Miruna> I think the 4Cs of marketing is something often used because it gives structure to the messiness of the strategic thinking process without leading it. Secondly, personally I am a big fan of ‘the sacred six’ creative brief Julian Cole shared with the world – it creates space for the consumer problem to really shine and it’s really easy to use, even by less experienced planners. Lastly, it’s always important to check that the strategy answer the basics: what’s the starting point, what’s the objective – what’s so clever about the way to get there? 

LBB> What sort of creatives do you like to work with? As a strategist, what do you want them to do with the information you give them?

Miruna> Team players. The bottom line is we have the same goal, which is reaching a beautiful idea – we just have different ways of getting there. 

As planners, we want creatives to firstly understand the information we give them, then challenge it and of course play with it.

LBB> There’s a negative stereotype about strategy being used to validate creative ideas, rather than as a resource to inform them and make sure they’re effective. How do you make sure the agency gets this the right way round?

Miruna> At Cheil | Centrade, we make sure creatives and planners know they have the same goal: great ideas. Secondly, we foster a culture where ownership of the idea is acknowledged, but it isn’t everything. In this way, it doesn’t matter if the creatives find a way to make the strategy better or if an off-strategy idea solves the brief better. The planner always signs off on the thinking and holds all ideas to the same standards. If it’s great and solves our brief – why not? It’s just a different strategy within the same team.

LBB> What have you found to be the most important consideration in recruiting and nurturing strategic talent?

Miruna> Respect, empathy and openness towards people – if you appreciate human beings, you will go the extra mile to understand them, uncover beautiful truths and subsequently keep the bar high on the work you deliver to your audience. I think this is the one thing that can’t be taught in a strategy department, the rest of it is. 

LBB> In recent years it seems like effectiveness awards have grown in prestige and agencies have paid more attention to them. How do you think this has impacted on how strategists work and the way they are perceived?

Miruna> In our agency, it opened the topic of effectiveness, a subject usually reserved for planners and post campaign reviews, to a broader audience. The prestige of effectiveness has helped bring both clients and creatives closer to the strategic thinking and that’s been great.

LBB> Do you have any frustrations with planning/strategy as a discipline?

Miruna> I believe that discipline is a bit too mystified, which leads to an array of issues – some people call everything ‘strategic’, others overcomplicate the thinking, others don’t get why we spend so much time to put together 10 slides of “simple words”. 

LBB> What advice would you give to anyone considering a career as a strategist/planner?

Miruna> Nurture your empathy and your curiosity – it will make you a happier person in the process.


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Cheil Centrade, Tue, 08 Nov 2022 10:11:12 GMT