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James Parnum 

What’s your New Years’ planning resolution?

What’s your New Years’ planning resolution?

Strategy LeadersMediaCom's UK head of planning reveals his professional New Year resolutions in the hope that others will share his aspirations.

For years I have made resolutions and like 90% of us would break them even before the Christmas tree had been collected.  As a result, I never thought much of this annual tradition of renewed purpose.

That was the case until last year, when, for the first time in my life, I actually kept a resolution. It was straight from the textbook - ‘I want to read a book a month’ - and thanks to the wonders of technology (only 10 years late to buying an Amazon Kindle) and the SMART objective, this one actually became a reality.

So I thought I would start this New Year off with not only personal resolutions, but also professional ones too.  What are the things I, and in fact we, would all like to change?

We should stop believing the hype

The column inches and Tweets are really stacking up against some notable subject matters, such as Web 3.0, metaverse, (active) attention, cross-media measurement, and we are only a few days into January.

Indeed, while they all have their merits and should be in any planning toolkit, they also need a healthy dose of scepticism to the often over-optimistic industry we work in.

Currently, we aren’t living out our lives as avatars, nor actively paying attention to adverts most of the time, so while we should learn and explore the boundaries of the next big thing in media, we can’t let the hype distract us from the fundamentals of what works right now to build brands and drive sales.

A bigger picture approach will stand us in good stead and help pull apart the hype from the helpful.

We should be less ‘versus’ and more ‘and’

Media loves a rivalry, a contest and opposing arguments. Brand vs. Performance, Traditional vs. Digital, Creative vs. Media, Agency vs. In-housing, Professional Content vs. UGC, Audience vs. Context … it’s almost like we can’t find the common ground on most topics.

However, while everyone loves a debate they are often artificially polarising.

The choices we need to make are less binary and frequently lie more on a spectrum. Finding the right blend for your brands is essential to their 2022 growth. 

We should collaborate more

The best work continues to be built in partnership.  Clients, media agencies, creative shops and media owners bring the best out in each other.

In Q4 alone, Ellesse and TikTok put on the worlds first shoppable catwalk, Tesco and Dunnhumby revolutionised the UK retail media landscape set to be a £2bn opportunity, ITV and the Army made the most relevant AV campaign to date with 112 different ads, News UK helped launch Sky Glass with the first ever cover-wrap of The Times, and only unparalleled cross-industry partnership helped C-Flight roll out.

None of these could have been done alone. Collaboration, even across party lines, must again be our north star for this year.

We need to do more than we say

Over the last two years there has been seismic societal change within and outside our industry enclave. Indeed, the All In Report & Action Plan is a great example of the road ahead we have set out to ensure everyone is welcome and build opportunities for those who previously have had them blocked due to systems of oppression.

In order to do this we all need to do more and put our words into action (yes, I appreciate the slight irony as I type this resolution). We need to do more than level up, but step back and step up to tackle inclusion in our industry. Ultimately, we are only as good as the people we develop, nurture and inspire.

We need to remember we often say and do different things

A lot of media and client decisions are based on claimed data points. This in itself is no bad thing and some of the most valuable bodies of research we use are built this way, for instance YouGov, TGI, Touchpoints, the Census, and indeed lots of our client’s own data, like brand tracking.

However, people say and do often different things. For example, one of the most talked about TV shows last year was Netflix’s Squid Games, generating as much online conversation and buzz as schedule stalwarts Strictly Come Dancing and the Great British Bake Off.

Yet, the average episode viewing for Squid Game was less than average episodes of Blankety Blank, Coronation Street and Countryfile. This is a great reminder to sense check any data, especially with actual behaviour, to avoid any inflation or misdirection and ensure that we take a more balanced approach.

So while I will say to you now that I am going to do all of these resolutions, you’ll have to check in this time next year to see how I did.

I really hope I can make all five of these resolutions stick. Time to fire up the Kindle and start reading how.

James Parnum is head of planning at MediaCom UK

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