APG-U.S. Account Planning Awards: When Magic Happens

Adweek invited the 10 finalists of this year’s APG-U.S. Account Planning Awards to explain what they discovered in the course of their research and how those consumer insights were used to make their campaigns more effective.
On the following pages, the agencies recount in their own words what they learned and how they put that knowledge to work in memorable ads.
“At the heart of an effective creative philosophy is the belief that nothing is so powerful as an insight into human nature, what compulsions drive man, what instincts dominate his action even though his language so often camouflages what really motivates him.” (Eth)Bill Bernbach
What Bill Bernbach said some 30 years ago is as true today as it ever was. Nothing illustrates this point better than the 10 finalists for the Account Planning Group-U.S. Awards. This awards show was introduced three years ago not as another self-indulgent award show in an industry with all too many self-indulgent celebrations, but to elevate the quality of account planning and its contributions to advertising.
Judging from both the unprecedented number and quality of the entries this year, the APG seems to be coming of age. More than doubling the number of entries received in its first year, the APG-U.S. Awards received 89 case-history submissions from 37 agencies. And very different agencies they are. Global agencies and local agencies. High-tech agencies and packaged-goods agencies. Agencies long known for their commitment to planning and agencies that have only recently introduced account planning.
Rising to the top were the 10 case histories that best demonstrated the impact of relevant insights. These cases build on the type of insights Bernbach was talking about. These campaigns also demonstrate foresight into the type of relationships consumers have with advertising and the brands that the advertising represents. (Not coincidentally, “Planning the Future” is the theme of this year’s APG conference in Boston, July 16-18, where the three medalists will be announced.) These campaigns go beyond merely reflecting the culture within which they work to actually shaping it. When the words and images of a campaign pass into the lexicon and memory of popular culture, magic happens.
So, what’s the trick? How did these agencies manage what they did? The answer is as different as the agencies and clients represented (and therein lies the real magic). But, as any magician will tell you, magic doesn’t happen by accident. It isn’t about luck or some divine inspiration. It’s about a driving desire to delve into the heart of the matter. The campaigns represented on the following pages demonstrate a lot of hard work, thoughtful inquiry and innovative thinking. They reflect a refusal to accept the status quo or the historical precedent at face value.
There is no simple answer. No two agencies used the same process or research technique to get there, although they all have smart processes and use creative research techniques. And no two insights came from the same place. Some were about a deeper understanding of consumer motivations. Some were about how to navigate the competitive landscape. While still others were about distilling the soul of the brand down to its most powerful, relevant point.
The point is, the magic isn’t really magic. It’s hard work. It’s thoughtful inquiry. It’s a witch’s brew of insights, invention and inspiration that can come from anywhere and, when done right, from anybody. The point, made abundantly clear in the following 10 campaigns, is that great planning and great advertising are products of persistence: persistent inquiry into what compulsions drive man, what instincts dominate his action even though his language so often camouflages what really motivates him. No tricks. No gimmicks. No formulas. No magic.
* Earl Cox and Catrina McAuliffe are co-chairmen of the APG-U.S. Awards Committee.
* Earl Cox is senior vice president, director of strategic planning at The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va.
* Catrina McAuliffe is senior vice president, director of account planning at Goldberg Moser O’Neill in San Francisco.
Earl Cox (co-chairman), The Martin Agency
Catrina McAuliffe (co-chairman), Goldberg Moser O’Neill
Chris Chalk, TBWA Chiat/Day
Cheryl Greene, Deutsch
Ted Nelson, Mullen
Pam Scott, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
Bruce Tait, Fallon McElligott
Megan Kent, TBWA Chiat/Day

Agency: The Martin Agency
Client: Saab
Campaign: “Unconventional Thinking”
Planner: Matt Williams

Agency: Leo Burnett
Client: Kellogg Special K
Campaign: “Reshape Your Attitude”
Planner: Denise Fedewa

Agency: Mad Dogs & Englishmen
Client: The Economist
Campaign: “Passion”
Planner: Michael Fanuele