Advertising Agency Strategic Planning And Insights

How Your Advertising Agency Can Leverage The Value Of Strategic Planning And Insights For Growth

I am sitting next to a 1.5-inch three-ring binder from Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Worldwide called “Saatchi Insight. Strategic Planning Tool Kit”. This book was our advertising agency strategic planning and insights bible.

 I took this tome with me when I left Saatchi in 1995. At that time, I was running business development across North America and, sadly, this was the last year that Maurice and Charles Saatchi ran the company. No, don’t be too sad. The brothers went on to build the smarter M&C Saatchi and I moved into digital marketing and publishing. I believe, as do many, that 1995 was the end of the great Saatchi & Saatchi reign.

The “Saatchi Insight. Strategic Planning Tool Kit”.

This toolkit includes 15 sections with strategic process brand names like MASTERBRAND, BRAND Detonator, The Saatchi Temple, The Consumer Connector, Funneling, The Media Monitor and Scenario Planning (at a time when this term was rarely used outside of Saatchi). The brand names helped position us as super smart in our new business pitches and, of course, with resolving existing client issues.

I’ll be hitting up insights from this book in a few blog posts because I think that advertising agency marketing-oriented strategic planning is an underutilized agency specialty. I strongly believe that having a clear and compelling strategic program can be a differentiator for today’s look-alike advertising agencies.

The first section of the book includes the 25-page overview “Issues and Solutions” to help internal staff sell-in the strategic services. It should be noted that in the 1980s and early 1990s, Saatchi was able to offer these services (except for out of pocket costs) and Strategic Planners for free to our clients because with the 15% media commission fueling our wonderfully large profits — we could.

Client Issues

The first section includes a list of client issues to be resolved. It is interesting to see what Saatchi perceived as client issues, many of whom were large global clients like P&G, over 20 years ago. Note that the majority of these issues remain in place today in your world despite radical changes in marketing and advertising. I believe, that if your agency can state and relate these issues to your current clients and prospects you will find a competitive advantage.

I need to repeat this… your advertising agency needs to find at least one competitive advantage and being very strategic can be a very nice sweet-spot.

Client Issues 1

Brand X means…

People don’t know what the company stands for.

We’ve changed as a company and we need to tell people about who we are.

We’ve got too many products to support as individual brands what should we do?

Client Issues 2

A single thought – multiple messages

How do we make advertising work more effectively?

We got a great new product how can we use it to say something about the company?

How can I decide which products/brands within the portfolio I should advertise?

Client Issues 3

Standing Out From The Crowd

No one remembers my advertising. We’ve got all the product information there but no one can remember which brand it is for.

How do I make my advertising stand out in a way that means something to consumers?

We have the best product but no one seems interested.

Client Issues 4

The Communications Jungle

How do I make all my communications work together?

Advertising is important but brochures, point-of-sales, talking to the trade is equally important.

How do I make sure that all the (marketing) communications companies I work with are giving the same core brand message?

Client Issues 5

Getting To The Heart

How do I develop advertising, which really gets through to people?

I need to advertise in 17 different markets, how do I find a single message will work everywhere?

I have to talk to lots of different audiences – how can I do this with a single execution?

Client Issues 6

Leveraging Assets

We’ve got some new products – should they be launched as part of existing brands?

How can we add some life to our existing brand portfolio?

We’re going to launch in this market and then roll it out around the world. We decided to look at European brand strategy how do we make it happen?

Client Issues 7

People can’t always tell me why they really prefer one brand over the other.

What we offer is really very similar to the competition. How can my product become more special? Are there intangible benefits we could tap into?

We really need to establish a long-term relationship with our customer so that even if new products coming out or the market become more price competitive, will we still have the edge. What do we need to know that the consumer can’t tell us directly?

Client Issues 8

What’s important to my consumer and how they live their life and what they value? Where does my product fit in?

How is my brand being affected or even hurt by what’s going on in today society? How can I improve my chances for success?

Client Issues 9

What kind of programming is most in sync with what my consumer wants from my type of product?

These two programs (magazines) seem very similar. Does one have an emotional age over the other? Which is a better buy for me?

What can I learn from what my consumer watches about the tone or approach that should be reflected in my advertising?

Client Issues 10

My business world is changing constantly. How can I make today’s decisions relevant to tomorrow?

We need to plan for the future, but how can we get a sense of what that future will be like?

Client Issues 11

Have we uncovered all our options? Have we fully explored the pluses and minuses of each so we can narrow the options with a sense of confidence?

We really know so much and there are so many talented people working on this business. But it’s hard to harness them, to get them all to focus on this issue at the same time and reach consensus.

Client Issues 12

When so many products fail each year, how can I minimize my risk of failure and have a greater chance of success?

What can I do to make sure that I can see what changes need to be made in the process of developing the new product, rather than waiting till the end?


In future blog posts, I will dive deeper into strategic planning and the value of insights to get into your future client’s heads. Believe me, they want insights about today’s marketing world – and tomorrow’s.

I’ll also point out some advertising agencies that get the value of strategic planning and show you how they leverage this service in their outbound communications.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.