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Don’t Forget About the Tactics

The biggest frustration I have with planning is actually how we use the creative brief to solve every problem. It’s like using a hammer to fix everything around the house. I understand that more progressive planners customize the content and delivery of the creative brief to address a specific problem, the issue is that no matter the format, the intent is always to deliver a single strategic idea. And a single strategic idea can only get us to the creative concept. It has no implications for how the concept is executed.

That is a problem for me because execution is the part of the idea that people interact with. They don’t see the strategy or the concept, but they see the content on the page, the feel of the experience and the usability of platform. It’s the visceral, tangible parts of the experience that forms the opinion about the brand. So why are we so dismissive of it as strategists?

I worked on the “Summit on the Summit” campaign from HP a while ago. I thought it was a pretty cool idea and very well produced. One of the big challenges on the project was that we spent a lot of money on creating content (commercials, viral films, websites) and had very little money for scaling our audience. That’s not atypical. But what I realized was that there were tons of opportunities in that campaign to build organic scale had we taken a moment to think it through.

One of the coolest pieces of the campaign was the website ( It was billed the “tallest website” because it could scroll the height of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The website would have a fact relating to each foot you scrolled up – that’s over 14,000 facts. We used Mechanical Turk to source the facts. The missed opportunity wasn’t the costs incurred. It was the fact that we didn’t give people a chance to volunteer to do it for free. We failed to use the production of the website as an opportunity to get people engaged and give them ownership of the campaign. That wasn’t covered in the creative brief. It also wasn’t mentioned in the creative concept.

One of the most liberating things about working in this business is how much we value being able to think about the big picture. But I think there’s an opportunity for us to see the big picture through to the end. While I only have one example with my limited experience, I believe that there are similar stories of opportunities left on the table because we overlooked the importance of tactics.