Troubador How not to Plan

Released: 28/08/2018

ISBN: 9781789014501

eISBN: 9781789011852

Format: Paperback/eBook

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How not to Plan

66 ways to screw it up

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In the sink or swim world of planners, strategists and their clients, now more than ever, there is a need for a practical handbook to guide us through all the main parts of the process. And thanks to Les Binet and Sarah Carter at Adam&eveDDB we now have just that. The original inspiration for the book was a set of articles that they wrote for Admap over 6 years. In these they set out to bust a lot of myths and nonsense that swirl around marketing and communications by using evidence-based approaches and interesting examples to make their points. We’ve been working with them to turn this treasure chest of wisdom into a practical guide. We’ve called it How Not To Plan in reference to its myth busting antecedents and in homage to an old but much loved set of essays published back in 1979 in an APG book called ’How to Plan Advertising’. The How Not to Plan of 2018 is a manageably sized handbook which leaves room for your scribbles and notes and can be read as a guide or used as a constant helpful reference point. It’s loosely based on the Planning Cycle and is grouped into themes that are important at different stages in the process, covering everything from how to set objectives, the 4 Ps, research and analysis, to briefing, creative work and media and effectiveness At the end of each chapter you’ll find a simple 2-minute check list for how to do it better, a short case study showing how it’s done brilliantly, a space for your notes and further reading for the intellectually gifted…

Zombie ideas, old-wives’ tales, creaking myths, the promises of snake oil salespersons, hand-me-down anecdote, self-styled (and self-serving) best practise, survivorship bias, received wisdom, invitations to stupidity disguised as appeals to common sense, data-free wisdom, orthodoxy, rules of thumb, declarations that this that or the other is now “dead”, wishful thinking, good ol’ fashioned humbug… Bad advice. It’s everywhere in Ad- and Marketing Land. Perhaps this accounts for why every generation of marketer seems to be so unrelentingly intent upon repeating the misjudgements, errors and SNAFU’s of the past.

When most books about marketing or advertising merely add to the landfill of calorie-free advice and are long copy exercises in self- or business-promotion, Les Binet and Sarah Carter aren’t here to sell you on some cure-all, win-all universal theory of life, planning, the universe and everything. They just want you to fuck up a little less often.

From objective setting to the use of research to the setting of budgets to effectiveness, Binet and Carter dismantle one myth at a time , providing along the way practical checklists and case studies illustrating good planning thinking in action.

It was time a good, practical book written by experienced practitioners was written about the planning craft. My only wish is that there will be a Volume 2 (and 3 and 4...) After all, there many more zombies out there waiting to be killed.

by Martin Weigel


Today, we have a better and more soundly based understanding of how to make effective advertising than ever before. And this book, a reworking of a long running series in Admap, distils that understanding into 66 short chapters. Les Binet and Sarah Carter not only know all the theory and the evidence (the references are all there are the back), but they’ve proven the principles for themselves through sixty years’ experience at one of the world’s greatest ad agencies. They write clearly and entertainingly, there’s little if anything I would disagree with, and it’s hard to think of anything they’ve left out.

I wish everyone would read, mark, learn and inwardly digest this book. Not just about ‘planning’, it’s far too important just to be read by planners or strategists. But will marketing directors, creative directors, digital gurus, CEOs and investment analysts take the time to study it, and reflect on the important truths it contains for each of them and the way they do their jobs? Will ISBA or the Marketing Society make it required reading, and will Binet and Carter top the bill at next year’s Cannes Festival? Well, we can live in hope.

by Paul Feldwick


How Not To Plan is a wonderfully illuminating and insightful book that any and everyone working in Planning (and beyond) can find inspiration, reassurance, consolation and wisdom from.

The book takes the articles from Les Binet and Sarah Carter and themes them across an amazing range of meaty subjects we all wrestle with day to day, from wider issues of setting objectives, budgets and media, target audiences and evaluation and the combinatorial power of the other ‘P’s’, to more detailed (and often as important) elements of communications such as the power of humour, music and fur.

The format of the book works well to avoid portraying Planning as a seemingly easy way to success by airing examples of how not to do something and how real life complications, time pressures, lack of knowledge and neophilia often compromise proper Planning. The authors then quickly turn this into proper best practice with a series of very useful essential check-lists and handy case studies.

Given the approach of the book, the simple practical and sometimes exasperated tone is thoroughly entertaining and makes you want to ask them for advice on your own work. As they say near the end of the book ‘It seems the world of advertising and marketing is unusually full of frustrating bollocks’ – something we’ve all privately thought but possibly haven’t said before.

It’s one of those books that makes you want to read it once a year to stay on the straight and narrow. Now to plough through the ‘Useful Reading’ section.

by Neil Godber


I spend a lot of time reading marketing and psychology books.

As I read them I photograph interesting snippets that I then tweet or keep for myself, so I can refer back to them.

If the book is good I might take half a dozen photos while reading. In the case of How Not to Plan I’d taken that many snaps in the first ten pages. It’s exceptional.

The book is based on Binet and Carter’s Mythbuster column for AdMap and it covers a glorious breadth of marketing topics: from objective setting to strategy, from research to media.

Each short chapter follows a similar approach – a quote, an anecdote from their career, a thorough analysis of the research on the topic and then a case study.

Each element is excellent.

The quotes are fresh and alone justify the price:

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Content without reach is like building cathedrals in the desert” Hamish Priest

“I don’t know how to talk to everybody, only to somebody” Howard Gossage

The anecdotes are surprisingly irreverent, regularly dismissing consensus opinion as “bullshit” or “bollocks”.

The case studies are helpful, drawing on the IPA Databank and data from the long-list of brands they have worked on.

And finally, the bulk of the book, the analysis of the research on each topic, is succinct yet authoritative.

A must buy.

by Richard Shotton


good book

by joe


APG Ltd

Sarah and Les first walked through the revolving door at 12 Bishops Bridge Road back when graphs were drawn by hand, presentations were made on acetates, and content was a word meaning happy. Since then, they've worked at some of best agencies in London - BMP, DDB and adam&eveDDB - all without leaving the building.

Sarah was a marketer at Unilever, before joining BMP as a planner. It was some time before she became aware of a small man in a suit, tucked away in a storage room, staring at spreadsheets on the agency's sole computer. No-one really knew why... Les had been studying artificial intelligence before joining BMP on a 2-month work placement. He had no idea what planners did. But it looked more fun than spreadsheets.

Thus began one of the longest working relationships in advertising. Over the last 30 years, they've trained some of advertising's best planners, worked on some of the world's best brands and advertising, and won more effectiveness awards than anyone else in the business.

They've learnt a thing or two along the way. Some of it is in this book.

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