News & Opinion

My lessons from the Planning Awards

Planning Awards judge Simon Carr from Hearts & Science takes a look at the four principles of successful media planning.

Having won a few Newsworks Planning Awards trophies in the past (The Metro Rainbow Laces Edition for Paddy Power) I was overjoyed to be asked to be a judge and to peruse the best of the best in terms of news brands campaigns from the past 12 months.  

The first thing to say is that the state of creativity and innovation in news brands designed and delivered by agencies and media partners is in rude health. There is a cliché when it comes to awards in that you always want to say that there are some campaigns that you wish you’d worked on, or ideas you wished you’d come up with and there were certainly some of those on the shortlists.

The awards entries left me inspired to use news brands in new and exciting ways. But the process also highlighted four principles that reaffirm what the bedrock of excellent media planning should be.

1. Make it human

There was a fair amount of discussion around the insight category. Mainly because everyone had a different point of view on what an insight is. Some things never change. Facts definitely aren’t insights and there were a few of those. But do insights need to be deep? Do they need to have some data sat behind them? Can they just be true? Or a gap in a category? Or a thought that flips the way things are normally done? 


PHD’s work for ŠKODA leveraged the fact it began life as a company that made bicycles and was a global sponsor of the Tour de France, but in true challenger fashion they shone a spotlight on gender inequality in professional cycling and the fact there isn’t a female Tour de France. They sponsored a women’s cycling team that rode the course the day before the men and partnered with The Daily Telegraph to highlight the story and the achievements and challenges of women’s cycling.

Most people don’t care or notice advertising so the best work should resonate with people – call it an insight, call it whatever you like, but if it moves the work forward in a way that sharpens it, focuses it and creates a springboard for innovation and creativity that delivers on the objectives and truly creates attitudinal or behavioural change then who cares about the definition.

2. Make it simple

The best work will always be that which can be expressed in a headline or press release (as CP+B famously do). If it takes you a while to explain the idea, then chances are the idea isn’t that good in the first place.  

The best ideas and those which will have got the trophies and the glory will be those that were easily explained and really bloody simple.

the7stars work for Prostate Cancer UK quite simply took the (scary) fact that a man dies every 45 minutes from prostate cancer and used this as the unifying thought across football messaging given a half is 45 minutes in length. Simple!

MGOMD’s work for Specsavers took the challenge of getting people to seriously consider what loss of sight would mean to them by removing images from media environments. The Sun had the highest image to copy ratio at 70% so became the core of the schedule. Simple!

941 640-Newspapers[Specsavers]

There is a saying that the perfect machine never starts with the least number of parts. But once you have an idea, start stripping it back to make it as clear and simple as you can.

3. Make it connected

Mark Ritson talks a lot about the lost art of synergy in media planning. Evidence exists from the IPA Databank to the Effies that adding a channel to the plan multiplies the benefit if it is properly connected in its application. Simply delivering a plan through siloed channel activations is not what we are talking about here. Proper media planners these days should be able to connect up a media plan across all touchpoints and make sure it harnesses the benefits across it all rather than each in isolation.  

Goodstuff’s work for ITV in launching Strangers is a good example of this. The idea was to leverage the insight that little is more disorientating than finding yourself lost in a foreign city where visual cues are unrecognisable. The familiar Metro newspaper was cover wrapped in Cantonese, even including the masthead. A social integration allowed the curious to tweet ITV to receive a translation. ITV then sent further cryptic clues to this engaged group. Cantonese idents were also run on ITV and outdoor activity with acoustic Hong Kong noise were added to immerse passers-by and again drive to ITV’s Twitter. Those who were most engaged through social media were then sent viewing reminders on day of transmission.  


OMD’s work for Betway with The Sun’s Dream Team was quite simply about understanding that football gamblers and fantasy football players had a high level of crossover. The Dream Team API integration meant that as players changed their team for the weekend, they were dynamically served first goal scorer or relevant bets relating to their players. And they could bet without having to leave the Dream Team app.

All very simple but connected intelligently.

4. Make it effective  

As much as making it human, simple and connected are important the work has to deliver back to marketing and communications objectives that are linked to business results. There is a reason creativity and effectiveness are intrinsically linked.

We need to get better as an industry at effectiveness and rewarding longer term thinking and business building work. This category is a great signal of intent and luckily we have people like Peter Field and his recent analysis of the IPA databank from a news brands perspective.

There will be much talk about the sexy ideas in some of the other categories but don’t let that put you off creating amazing work that delivers from a business perspective and in the long term for your clients.

So as your attention turns to the next round of client work, pitches, awards submissions you could do worse than taking inspiration from the best of the Newsworks Awards and make it human, simple, connected and effective whichever agency you work at.

Click here to have a look at the winning case studies.

Simon Carr, Chief Strategy Officer, Hearts & Science 28/11/19

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