Fri, 10 Jun 2022 13:25:11 GMT
Will is co-founder and strategy director of The Park, the marketing-led experiential agency and creators of Brand Proof. The Park works with brands that stand for something and helps them prove it to their customers and internal stakeholders. Those brands include H&M, Acast, NBC, Red Bull, Amazon Prime and Dreamworks.
Prior to founding The Park in 2018, Will was controller of marketing and media at ITV, where he led the shift to younger audiences with the rebrands of ITV Hub and ITV2, and launched the youth cultural phenomenon that is Love Island. Prior to his four years at ITV, he worked at Channel 4, where he launched 4Music, and held several strategy and management roles in creative and media agencies in the UK and Australia.
Will’s client-side experience means he is passionate about measurement and proving the effectiveness of experiential marketing in delivering tangible business results for The Park’s roster. He is an international speaker, regular contributor to industry press and is passionate about creativity and the importance of combining people from mixed backgrounds to create great ideas.
Will> Often, I think it’s just semantics and what a company chooses to use. I’ve never seen the title of ‘planner’ outside of traditional advertising and media agencies and the title of ‘strategists’ seems to have come into marcomms more recently as the discipline has broadened.
Will> I gravitate towards ‘strategist’ because I think of strategy as very focused on establishing the key problem and then providing clarity on what success looks like. As opposed to having a predetermined answer, channel or discipline in mind.
Will> Having spent a few years at Channel 4 it will always have a very special place in my heart. So I watched with admiration when I saw the Superhumans campaign for the 2012 Paralympics. It was clearly creatively brilliant, but I think it was also strategically perfect. The idea of turning the portrayal of disability from pity, to admiration and empowerment, was superb.
Will> Ultimately I think the inspiration for a particular brief is highly unlikely to come at the time you’re working on it. It will be something you saw, read, experienced some time before. That’s why it’s so important to be constantly interested in the world. When you start working on a brand, inevitably you will uncover insights and a new perspective on that brand, but the creative and strategic richness comes from cultural insight. The perfect cultural insight appearing at the time of the relevant brief is the sort of perfect serendipity that I’ve rarely experienced.
Will> Digging beneath the client brief to uncover the real problem. I like to be like the child that constantly asks 'Why?', often to the annoyance of clients and colleagues. Only when I genuinely believe I understand what the true problem is can I start working on the strategy to solve it.
Will> I wouldn’t say it’s anything as grand as a maxim, but the most important question for me is 'Why should anyone care?'. Care about this product, care about this idea, care about what we want them to do. There’s a danger to think that 'consumers' are this mythical group waiting for our commercial messages. Clearly they aren’t. If we and our clients can get to the heart of why people should care then we have something genuinely powerful. If we can’t then Clients should save their money. Beyond that, our proprietary approach at The Park is centred around the idea of Brand Proof; we look for what it is that a brand needs to prove to unlock growth, and then help them do that in a creatively compelling way.
Will> I like working with any creative that is good at creating brilliant ideas! Ultimately, the relationship works best when I can provide stimulus, thoughts, and provocative questions to spark ideas. My strengths lie in establishing a clear problem and a cultural context but in a logical way. Brilliant creatives are illogical, they see the world differently. Combining those two approaches can be really powerful. Beyond that, I think it’s seeing the relationship as a partnership.
Will> It helps being a co-founder of the business! But it’s still hard. I think the key is allowing enough time for genuine strategic development and being rigorous about creative reviews. Developing strategy on the back of a creative idea is not always a bad thing though. Sometimes a creative spark can present the problem in a different way and strategy can be used to test the hypothesis. I like that as it means the strategic/creative relationship is more fluid and less linear.
Will> Strategists by their nature are inquisitive people and this needs to be nurtured. Ensuring they have enough time to read, watch, listen, visit to keep their minds sharp and culturally connected is key. As I mentioned before, it’s not a case of receiving a brief and looking for inspiration, it’s about constantly filling a bank of interesting thoughts that you can dip into when needed.
Will> I’m not sure it’s made any difference. Good strategists and planners have always been interested in effectiveness. Whether it’s awarded or not.
Will> Planners and strategists are always frustrated, it’s part of the job! I think my main frustration is client briefs that are overly prescriptive and with short timelines. This means strategy gets squeezed out of the process. But that’s not solely the fault of clients. Agencies need to push back and also demonstrate the value of the discipline.
Wil> Be genuinely interested in the world and the rest will fall into place.