TeaTalk with: Matt Sewards, Planner.
We sit down with Matt, a member of our Planning team, for a cuppa and a chat. We explore what drew him to marketing, what Togetherness means to him and what he enjoys most about working at Cogent.
- What inspired you to take up planning as a career? Did you always know this was something you wanted to do?
I just kind of fell into it. I spent 5 years in the army prior to moving into marketing, and as part of my re-settlement, I spent some time at an agency gaining office experience. It was there I first discovered Planning, following a stint in Client Services and was lucky enough to be offered a role as a Junior Planner upon leaving the army.
- What’s your career highlight to date – something that has really stuck with you and makes you proud?
I think the major highlight in my working life, whilst not related to Cogent or even to Planning, would be my tour of Afghanistan in 2013. It was a significant achievement for me as joining the army and going there was something I’d wanted to do since leaving school. Once I’d completed it, I knew my time in the army was done and it was time to move on. Thus begun my venture into Marketing!
- What’s the best ad or campaign you’ve ever set eyes on and why?
The one that always comes to mind for me is Old Spice: The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.
From a Planner’s perspective, it was a great example of a campaign built around a core insight, then executed phenomenally well (a Planners dream).
At a more basic level, I think an ad’s job should be to entertain. There’s a famous quote that ‘people read what interests them, and sometimes it just happens to be advertising’. We force ads on people, in TV breaks, during their commutes, as they’re scrolling through Facebook.
“We’re interrupting people to convince them to give us their money (or simply their finite time), so as part of the value exchange I think the least we can do as Advertisers is try and make that interruption worth their while.”
For me, this Old Spice campaign is one of my favourite examples of that. Oh, and at no point did it hide the fact its sole purpose was to get you to buy their product. It championed it, mocking advertising yet at the same time, creating a great ad.
More recently, one of my favourites was the Tide campaign in this year’s Super Bowl. Again, taking the piss out of the industry and Super Bowl ads in general, but in an entertaining way without diluting the core product message. Every ad is a Tide ad if it has clean clothes in it. Brilliant.
- What part of your job as a Planner here at Cogent do you enjoy most and why?
One of the best things about Planning is that every day is different. Every day will see a new challenge to tackle for clients in different industries. Our time is spent learning about, and attempting to understand different industries, businesses, and their challenges. We then approach them from different perspectives to help solve the problem. It’s a dream for anyone who has a natural curiosity about why things are the way they are.
- Why Cogent? What originally drew you to our barn on a farm?
I was drawn initially by the plans the CEO has for the agency. It feels like a very exciting place with a very promising future and it was something I really wanted to be a part of.
- What does Togetherness mean to you?
We spend roughly a third of our lives at work. In fact, we spend more time with work colleagues than we do with our own friends and family. As such, I think work should be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for people. The businesses who recognise that, get the best from their employees and perform the best.
JFK famously asked a Janitor at NASA what his job was, “I’m helping put a man on the moon”.
Whilst massively cliché, I think Togetherness embodies this exact sentiment. It’s fairly obvious that better things happen when people collaborate and work together than when they work alone in isolation.
Togetherness is about creating a culture where everyone’s input is as valued as each other’s, regardless of perceived experience, knowledge, ability etc.
- Do you think you have a USP, a unique way of approaching things that makes you different from other Planners?
I think everyone technically has a USP. No two people are the same, as the experiences which shape them into who they are, are not replicable.
A Planners job, at its simplest, is to provide a different perspective on something. To analyse and understand a problem from different points of view, before offering a perspective on what they believe the answer to the problem should be to maximise the chances of success. Everything we do is ultimately subjective, based on the data, research and intuition which we have available. The Ludic Fallacy highlights that humans are far too complex for any framework, model or formula, as we aren’t rational beings. I’m a firm believer in this. Many Planners have favoured approaches to doing things which they believe is correct, but all these do is attempt to build a whole picture; a picture which will NEVER be whole.
Because of this, I think the greatest Planners are the ones who come from the most diverse backgrounds, able to bring different perspectives, approaches, experiences to answer a problem. My 5yrs in the army working across Bomb Disposal and Weapons Intelligence and my Hons degree in Business Studies arguably provides me with a unique way of approaching things which will be different to any other Planner in the world…
- Why is planning such an important part of a campaign process?
Planning’s role is to make the work we do more effective.
We exist to better understand what the client wants, and by using research, data and our own intuitions, we help direct the brief and give our creative teams something to really get their teeth into.
More than ever clients are wanting more from their agencies. They want guaranteed returns on their investments, guarantees of success and to maximise the impact of their marketing budget. By understanding the target audience, understanding who we’re competing against, and understanding what’s true of our client’s organisation, we’re able to better understand what messages are likely to have the greatest impact, and therefore maximise the chances of success for our clients and ourselves.
- So, you haven’t always been a Planner. Are there any lessons you learnt while in the army that help you in everyday marketing life?
Absolutely! The army was a very interesting experience, and arms you with a lot of transferable skills. I actually plan on writing some articles about this, so watch this space, but as a starter, I think some of the transferable lessons learnt were:
Pragmatism – The ability to deal with things sensibly and realistically. Too often we as Marketers can get lost amidst ‘blue sky thinking’ without an appreciation for the need to sometimes get down and dirty and just get shit done effectively, rather than perfectly.
Determination – The ability to get stuff done – to see things through, to get that brief, that research, to complete the workshop.
Teamwork – Along with the Togetherness proposition. Working together is always better than working alone. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
- What’s your favourite kind of project to work on? What really gets your blood pumping?
By far the best projects for me are the brand development projects where we’re able to get involved from start to finish. To develop a brand, name it, position it, then develop and dictate how we launch it and grow it. It’s often rare that we’re able to follow the gold standard approach from start to finish, so when they do come along, they’re great!
Keep an eye out for next month’s TeaTalk where we’ll be sitting down with a member of the Relationships Hive here at Cogent.