Lifting the lid: a Strategy Director

By February 2, 2017Uncategorized
duncan ramsay advertising strategy

Agencies tend to house a lot of job titles, and sometimes they don’t work in the same way as other companies.  An “Executive” may be a junior employee. (Or not.) A “Media Manager” spends more time looking at spreadsheets than watching television. And an “Account Head” doesn’t do accountancy. Let’s look at a key agency role: the Strategy Director.

Strategy with a human face 

Scorch’s Strategy Director is Duncan Ramsay. (For those who know our MD Tristan Ramsay, this is where we’d normally add “no relation”– except he is!) The difference in ad agencies is that his primary role isn’t Scorch’s own business strategy (although he does that too) – rather, he spends his days (and nights) thinking about the marketing strategies of our clients.

You could say the Creative team looks into the brief, but the Strategy Director looks across it. At how the client’s requirement intersects with the push-and-pull of competitive forces in the market, and where the client can gain advantage in the race.

“Traditionally, creative agencies have always been good at coming up with creative new ideas – that’s why brands come to us in the first place. But in today’s marketplace, there are several critically important areas of focus in my role as Strategy Director which are essential to ensuring our clients’ success,” says Duncan.

“Firstly, working closely with our clients to really understand in detail the business challenges they are facing – typically a specific business issue or opportunity, sometimes both. Secondly, building the communication brief which underpins the direction and intent of the creative work itself is crucial to the process.

“Finally, it’s a central part of my role to ensure that the creative work squarely delivers against the brief, both through internal assessment and through external validation with consumers.”

Consumer validation can mean using established research methodologies, explains Duncan, with new tools such as neurological testing and large scale but comparatively low cost online research methodologies growing in importance.

“But, in reality, there’s more to it than that,” Duncan quickly points out. “In the complex world we now live in, where media models are fragmented and consumers have more control over the destiny of brands than ever before, there are new strategic disciplines I also consider at the heart of my role.

“For example, ensuring that we are continuously sharpening our already cutting-edge understanding of new and emerging media models and applying this understanding to solving our clients challenges has driven a lot our growth for us.

“Similarly, working to apply new thinking to traditional channels is also important, as the way they are being consumed is also undergoing significant change. It’s also vital that we clearly define how the brands we work with can play a meaningful role in consumer’s lives.

“Failing to reach this clarity in a world where consumers have such a strong voice means you run the risk of being ignored at the very best, and at worst it means inadvertently creating negative brand sentiment.”

“Ultimately my role comes down to two things, defining hard business objectives and ensuring they are delivered for our clients.”

“It’s my job to show our clients their current reality, their desired consumers’ current reality, and then demonstrate the possibility of where their brand can be and come up with a plan to connect those three things in a way that delivers real results,” says Duncan.

A case in point being cooking spray Frylight. (We’ve just added a Case Study on the campaign to our website.) The DairyCrest-owned brand has a genuine USP: a secret recipe combines cooking oil with water in a 1:19 ratio, meaning home frying uses as much as 95% less oil. That taps directly into the growing awareness of food health and the general feeling that frying, however delicious, isn’t a great way to prepare the family dinner.

From strategising to visualising

With Account Manager Sophie Connor, Duncan led an all-day workshop with the clients, exploring ten conceptual territories or “pieces of mind” the brand could own. Ten led to four, which led to six creative executions of those ideas, narrowed down again to the spot you’ll see during Corrie. (Frylight’s media plan started on Boxing Day. Perhaps you saw the spot?)

That’s the role of strategy in an agency. However creative the TV ads you see in the breaks, none of them were just a bright idea the client liked. (Well, with a few exceptions.) They’re a realisation of long hours delving into competitor activity and share-of-mind, striving for a space the brand can make its own.

All of which led to Scorch’s first TV spot for Frylight being less about food than family. A series of families – characters and sets dressed to colour-match what’s in the wok! – pass a bottle of Frylight from kitchen to kitchen, different people in different homes, all frying without fear. It’s a live-action movie of the brand thought: Feel Good Frying. And yes, Duncan’s got a bottle in his kitchen. Ask about his newfound skill with a wok.

If you need help coming up with a creative and results-driven campaign strategy, get in touch with Duncan or someone from the Scorch team today.