Talking with Chris Forrest about different planning stuff


Let me introduce Chris

Started in qualitative research in 1982 working for luminaries such as Roddy Glen. He moved into advertising in 1986. He was Ogilvy’s youngest board director. He switched to DFGW where he won APG and IPA awards for the launch of Daewoo cars.

Has been a freelance researcher and planner for the last four years.

He was previously vice-chair of the APG. He wrote chapters on Quant Research for the IPA’s ‘Excellence in Advertising’ and on Qual Advertising Research for the AQR’s ‘Qualitative Research in Action’. He chaired the Advertising Research sessions at the last two MRS Brighton Conferences.

Now, Chris Forrest is a partner in The Nursery, specialising in creative development research for advertising and brand communications.

I asked him some questions and he kindly answered:

1. If you reduced the role of planning to one word or idea which would be this word/ idea?


You could debate forever what planners are supposed to bring but I think it boils down to an interesting secondary perspective, hopefully from somewhere outside of the immediate influences.

2. Which do you think is the latest fashion in planning?

Planning is in a really good place at the moment. Its embracing of eclectic inputs is much more fashionable across agencies and clients. The blogosphere, as your next question says, has helped with this. You can get quite a lot of good planning free just from reading the main blogs.

If there is a fashion trend I suppose it is planners joining digital agencies. These agencies have now got the budget to hire planners but I know some of those who’ve joined are finding it tough to get clients to spend on research and the sort of inputs that planners need to perform at their best.

3. In Romania planning became known and very fashionable due to the planning blogosphere. What made you decide to not launch your own blog?

I did launch a blog. I have some claim to being the original planning blogger! Way back in 1995 I saw that the WWW was going to be a big deal. I taught myself HTML programming and put my then agency DFGW and the APG (I was its vice chairman ) online. For the next 2 or 3 years the APG website was me updating it, mainly on Saturday mornings with what was going on at the APG, chatty comments about planning stuff and links to other planning related sites. (I think I still have the site archived on an old Apple Mac in my loft.) It was great because every planner who went online surfed the site and was pleasantly surprised by it. It sold APG memberships, books and training courses and more than covered its costs. Plus it helped my personal brand recognition so I was able to go freelance.

Then the web moved into what I think of as its dark years around the dotcon when everything had to be serious and expensive, home made content looked tired. (User generated was deeply unfashionable) So the APG site was taken over by an agency. It became glossy but also stopped being updated as often.

I’m delighted that the web is all now back to where it started, social networking. But now the expectations are also higher. Maintaining a good blog was like keeping a dog, you have to feed and exercise it all the time. It’s becoming like publishing a magazine, you have to have great visuals, be aware of what the rest of the blogosphere is up to. Keep it fresh. Its a seriously creative endeavour. Compared to people like Russell I’m not sure I’ve got anything very interesting to say. I limit myself to helping my kids make their MySpace pages look good.

4. Which is your favorite case study where planning made the difference?

A good question but a tricky one because usually you need to look at the context. Where planning makes most of a difference is often not just in creating new inputs for better creative work but in providing the intellectual framework to persuade a client to run challenging work. Obviously I love my launch strategy for Daewoo cars into the UK 10 years ago which was one of the key inputs to creating a radically different kind of car company who hit their 3 year target in just one year.
More topically I’ve just seen presentation of the excellent Travelocity and O2 IPA effectiveness cases and I was very proud of our own research which led to the government having the confidence to run the current hard hitting anti smoking campaign. (This campaign was very much the outside contender when we started.)


5. Can you please tell me the most innovative research approach you used in your career?

Another tricky one. I always like the most recent methodology. (Things get better all the time!) We’re doing more and more with blogs. I’ve researched lager by inviting men along for a curry at an Indian restaurant. We’ve just persuaded Canon to give digital SLR cameras to people to keep for 10 days and complete 4 photo essays as a way of assessing the appeal and usability of the product.

2 răspunsuri

  1. Nico 14 Mar, 2007 @ 09:47

    At the first question, John Griffiths had another opinion: planning means disruption.
    Is interesing to have a few planners`s ideeas about what their job is.

  2. Nico 14 Mar, 2007 @ 09:53

    Oh, I forgott, Griffiths said olso distillation :)

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