Fast strategy

In the UK, the IPA strategy Group is organising an event called ‘Fast strategy’.

“The most important skill that strategists need to learn in this era is speed. Slow baked strategy no matter how good, can never be great.”Guy Murphy, Chairman of the IPA Strategy Group, Worldwide Planning Director of JWT.


Richard from Adliterate was asked to produced a piece promoting the event. Abstracts:

Fast strategy is about delivering powerful thinking quickly, whether in days, hours or minutes, so that strategy remains in the picture and we can at least aim our activity before squeezing the trigger.

Not only [the event] will showcase the strategic shortcuts of 50 leading practitioners but we will also witness fast strategy in the flesh as three communications legends compete in real time to crack a live client problem.

I think this is great news. The advertising industry finally realising that long-winded, never ending strategy are starting to make no sense whatsoever in today’s world. Snails will be eaten. Alive.  (metaphorically though, I still can’t get myself to actually eat them. Ah those French people).

What does make me grin a little tough, is that ‘Fast strategy’ has always been a reality for digital agencies. And that for two obvious reasons:

1/ In digital, there is just not the money to spend months coming up with a perfectly rationale and articulate (which doesn’t mean right) answer. You can’t afford a month of planning for a 50K microsite. Yet, it’s still a piece of advertising that requires the same thinking and process than does a TV spot.

2/ The medium is changing so fast that if you take more than a few months to develop a strategy, chances are, by the time it is produced, it has become obsolete already, or someone else will have done it.

However, does it make digital strategy less worthy of their ‘traditional’ counterparts?

I used to think so. Having worked with many advertising agenies at my time at Glue London, I used to envy the time planners would have to ponder on a problem.

But after a while, I quickly realised that this time was, occasionnally, playing against them. It had often killed their planning instinct of what was right or wrong and that not havint too much time on my hands was proving benefitial:

  • Because I had to be more focused, concise, and quicker in my articulations, not to say more organised. You have to quickly identify the problems and cut to the chase.
  • It meant you have to learn how to find insights very quickly, therefore developping an uncanny skill of browsing the web for nuggets. (See findind inspiration online for example).
  • It also meant you always have to be up-to-date and have a perfect understanding of the Internet landscape. You can’t afford to spend time finding out what’s cool after starting a project. You need to know before you embarked on a project. Which made constantly reading blogs, magazines, books… all the more vital.
  • But most importantly, it helped me develop a good intuition and taught me to learn to listen to it more. Being quickly able to see what has great creative potential or not.

The strategy for the Mini aveaword was developed in 3 days. It was a solid strategy, with a strong point of view on modern masculinity, lots of insights on the ‘hard man’ being cool again as well as stimulus for the creative.

I wouldn’t probably come up with anything better had I spent another month. I actually think it might have made me rethink my initial strategy and would have possibly allow room for doubts.

Anyway, that’s just a quick take on fast strategy. I’m not implying we should all start writing strategy in 2 days, but that we should listen more to our instincts and intuition rather than relying on endless research process to tell us what’s right. It’s about getting our hands dirty and doing more stuff. Being courageous and spontaneous. Because there isn’t always a very rationale explanation for what we think is great. And consumers are emotional people, not rationale.

Thinking ‘fast’ results in braver, more original and more creative thinking. Look at the work that you develop when you work on a pitch. It’s always the best thinking. And is the part most people enjoy working on. So why can’t it be like that all the time?

The rest will have to be learned at the event itself. It’d be interested to get feedback from the ones going as I can’t make it.

One criticism though: it would have been nice to look outside of advertising for once. There is a journalist presenting, which is good, but it’s getting tiring of seeing always the same people presenting in this kind of events. Asking the same old people about new solutions seem a bit counter-intuitive. Surely there are some people out there that can do ‘fast thinking’ better than we do.


  1. April 24, 2008 at 3:35 am

    great post, totally agree with you 🙂
    good argument for why planning in the digital world is more interesting too.

  2. April 25, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Yeah. Hallelulah. If you think the world moves slowly in the UK, you should try the massively byzantine set-ups in the US. Doesn’t stop us from trying to shake it up though. And it’s not just strategy, but creative as well. I have a recent post on this very same subject…
    Wish i could make it over for the event

  3. Digicynic
    April 28, 2008 at 11:44 am

    I checked your agency website and was quite amazed by the set-up of your agency
    I sure wish you to become hugely successful so I can use your case study to convince some people over here!
    All the best, Jerome.

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