StratFest 2020 - The Virtual Sessions

Planner Parley

Melody Ossola Melody OssolaEpisode 1Sep 28, 2020

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Introduction: Welcome to Planner Parley. A show where we come together under a flag of truce to talk about small agency planning, StratFest went virtual this year, but the buzz was still the same. Planner Parley joined in on the streaming fun with a cocktail leading discussion to round out an inspiring day. Sarah McFarlane, Director of Strategy at R&R Partners in Las Vegas and Steve Kozel, Group Strategy Director at OBP in St. Louis, returned to the show to look back over a StratFest, unlike any other, join them and John Roberts, CSO of Truth Collective in Rochester, New York, as they review the event, dig into lessons learned and what it means for small agency planners, pull up a chair and listen in.

John Roberts: So, welcome to season two, another episode of Planner Parley, and today’s topic is StratFest. We’re actually recording this just, uh, a couple of days after the first ever virtual StratFest from the 4A’s, uh, in time of COVID. And I’m thrilled to welcome back last year’s guests on the StratFest review. So, I have Sarah McFarlane, Director of Strategy from R&R Partners in Vegas. Welcome Sarah. And uh, you’re a case study that I’d love to touch upon each one. So, thanks for joining us.

Sarah McFarlane: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks John.

John Roberts: And our other partner from OBP in St. Louis, Steve Kozel, so welcome Steve back again.

Steve Kozel: Yeah, very excited to be back. Thanks, John.

John Roberts: So, guys, we, compare a little bit to what we thought and shared from last year’s StratFest, when actually we first met, if I remember right, it was over probably too many beverages on a Brooklyn tour after one of the evenings in New York City.

Steve Kozel: Yes.

Sarah McFarlane: Yes. (laughs).

Steve Kozel: (laughs)

John Roberts: Yeah, but we had this virtual beer last night at the end of uh, the Parley, at the end of StratFest 2020. 2020, planning in real time, was the theme for this StratFest. Uh, and certainly when it was created as a theme, I don’t think anyone imagined it was this kind of in real time, in real life, in our bedrooms, in our front rooms and chatting over Zoom all the time. So, let’s jump straight in. So, let’s start with you. When you think about StratFest yesterday as a virtual experience of four, five hours? How was it overall for you?

Sarah McFarlane: Yeah, I mean, per your intro, isn’t the, uh, topics of prescient (laughs) a time that-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane:  … we would be in such a weird world this year, but, um, you know, I was pretty amazed that they, um, you know, pivoted so quickly and, you know, converted everything to virtual. You know, there’s always gonna be hiccups, just like every client meeting you’ve been on in the last six months. But, um, all in all, I feel like there were some real silver linings and, um, and some things that we could probably work on next year, but, um, I was excited to be there.

John Roberts: Fantastic. Steve, how about you?

Steve Kozel: You know, uh, uh, StratFest is something that I, uh, you know, I’ve looked forward to every year for the last few years, um, and it might have to do with an excuse to get to New York.

Sarah McFarlane: Hmm.

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative) (laughs)

Steve Kozel: So, (laughs), so, uh, this year, not even being able to leave my house, um, you know, I, I, I thought it was great content. I appreciated a lot of the conversation. You know, one of the things that I found myself kind of in the middle of is, you know, almost a meta-analysis of how I was experiencing the event. Because, um, you know, our agency is helping to produce virtual events for our clients. I’ve attended other virtual events-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel:  … in the midst of helping plan a virtual event. And so, trying to divorce myself of the, like assessment of the event, the experience itself, and really, um, listen to the content and absorb it, was kind of tough. You know, the other thing that’s hard about not being in person is you’re so much more inclined to be working (laughs) while listening.

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel:  Um, and so, there was definitely some of that, uh, you know, so I think it’s, as has been the theme for me personally this year, um, actually being able to give my full attention, uh, was really hard and actually being present and, um, absorbing it in the way that I think I normally would have last year was difficult for me. But all things considered, uh, I did really enjoy it. I thought they did a great job with the programming this year.

John Roberts: Yeah. I hear you. And funny you said it. You’re absolutely right about, you know, in real life being so prescient because it wasn’t just the fact that we were distant, you know, we couldn’t be together. But Steve- Steve, your points are absolute great as well in terms of the, in real life, the COVID, fatigue. I know that many of us or all of us in sharing in some way, means it’s actually very hard to get that focus of attention, uh, and absorption. And I felt that uh, it’s certainly true. I’m looking forward to actually you know, the flip side to not being together is all of the presentations are recorded.

Steve Kozel: Yeah.

John Roberts: So, I’m gonna spend more, a bit more time and go back through them. And again, pickups and threads.

Steve Kozel: Yeah.

John Roberts: Because I think that was, that was an interesting experience for me.

Steve Kozel: John, John, you just used the-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel: … word that it really struck me. I think one of the things that I’ve personally found so frustrating about this year, and even in the context of an event. I think some of the stigma came through in some of the discussions. But for, for our discipline, like a huge piece of what we do is not only focusing ourselves, but focusing our teams and trying-

John Roberts:  Yeah.

Steve Kozel:  … to deliver focus to the work. And that’s been really hard to do this year (laughs).

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel: You know, in general, uh, and uh, and even through some of the, the content, I was, you know, applauding certain contributors that they were able to kind of cut through to a core theme and really take even a beat to make sure that everybody kinda knew level set. Like we’re on in this together. What comes to mind is Mark Pollard starting off his workshop, just kind of like with a quick PSA on mental health-

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sarah McFarlane: Hmm.

Steve Kozel: … which I commend him for. Because it’s like, you can’t just blow (laughs) right through the elephant in the room. Is that like, everybody’s really having a hard goal this year. So, yeah. You said focus. And I was like, “Yeah, focus is the thing that has like been very hard to attain this year.” For me Personally.

John Roberts: I hear you, and Sarah? I know you’ve experienced similar thing.

Sarah McFarlane: Yeah, absolutely. And I think to Steve’s point, you know, along with that focus comes the stripping down, right? Of rethinking everything in the way that we’ve done it, trying to, you know, get down to what I call a minimum viable product, right?

John Roberts:  Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane: Um, what’s the simplest, cleanest, most concise way that we can get to what we need to get to in the midst of all of this. And, and I heard a lot of content that was really speaking to that, which was really, really appropriate for me, and, and the work we’ve been doing in the last six months.

John Roberts: Do you know, Sarah, that’s a really great way, when I was looking, going back through my notes this morning about, you know, some of the things we took away, I was lucky enough to be sitting in the same room. At least even though six-foot distance from two of my planners, uh, three of my planners in terms of looking at the event on StratFest, uh, and then chatting about it a little bit.

But that focus what, what we all took away were the moments, which is actually not necessarily even just one presentation, but the moments where we failed there was a balance between the lofty idealism that we all seek in planning about how can we get better, really closely attached to a very simple, what can I do about it, a tactic, an example, a way to apply. Uh, It was really interesting for us because I- I think that comes back to what you were saying, Steve, about how do we get this focus? So, we don’t have too much hypothetical thinking and swirled, but actually get down to doing things. Do you know what I mean?

Steve Kozel: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane: Yeah, abs…

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel: For sure.

Sarah McFarlane: Nobody’s got time for that anymore. Right. Like, um, I would love to, you know, just marinate in my thoughts and pontificate on the best approach for every particular project. But, you know, as we heard from all of these panelists and all of these presenters, you know, it’s getting down to what they say, the 45-minute planning period, right?

John Roberts: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane: From the six to eight weeks, we all wish we ever had-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane: … which I’m not even sure that was ever real, but, um (laughs), but this 45 minutes feels very real.

John Roberts: So, let’s stay on that because that was the theme, uh, of fantastic workshop that sadly I couldn’t attend because I was setting up a third, the Parley, but Mark Paul and Julian Cole were doing a 45-minute strategy workshop. Steve, you were there. Sarah, were you on that one as well?

Sarah McFarlane: I was not, although I am very excited about this recorded content, that’s getting uploaded.

John Roberts: Exactly. And also Julian Cole and I are going to be doing another podcast, uh, Mark and Julian and I did one last season. So, Julian’s coming back and I thought, I- I’ve asked Julian to think about what would be the subject, does he carry the scene through? So, we’ll dig in deep on that, but Steve, why don’t you chat a little bit about what you took away from the, the 45-minute workshop?

Steve Kozel: Well, uh, I think the thing that I enjoy about, um, a- any time those two do their, you know, live strategy, which they’ve done on Mark’s podcast. And I think in few other places-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel: … I love it because it’s, it’s this completely vulnerable high wire act. And they’re not really too concerned with falling, which I think is just refreshing.

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: Um, you know, we as planners and strategists, I think that there’s this natural tendency towards coming off as if we know exactly what the right answer is. And we have all the answers and we’ve, you know, everything we’re proposing is airtight. And, um, eh, these two guys are very, very open (laughs) to being wrong. And I think that the creative approach that they take to just kind of riffing and, um, get soliciting input real time and chewing on stuff and just having fun with it, I think is-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel: … something that we could all stand to adopt a little bit more. I think we, we just, as a discipline have become so accustomed to having every head in the room, turn and look at us and expect us to deliver, you know, the, the airtight answer to all the problems, um, with full confidence, and, and obviously that’s not always the case, the, it’s something I know we’ve been trying to get more, um, in the habit of doing it. Uh, OBP is a more crossover collaboration through all phases of work so that there aren’t these moments where I have to have everything ironed out and I hand it over to creative and the creative has to have everything ironed out for creative review. You know, it can be messier and it can be, um, a little bit more fun even, uh-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel:  … if we are just vulnerable and let ourselves kind of like be wrong for a little bit until we find something that feels right.

John Roberts: It was funny. Because it reminds me of things I’ve talked about with people before about, you know, a belief that I don’t think strategists are responsible for creating the strategy. I think they’re responsible for making sure that there is one, right?

Steve Kozel: Yeah.

John Roberts: So, it isn’t us with having the golden words and the sole answer only, but how do we bring people in? And, uh, I- I heard that yesterday as well in, in the Parley, we had a, a cocktail Parley at six o’clock for an hour. And just sharing thoughts about 20, 30 people. And a similar thing came through about having the partner means that some, it is more fun than sitting in your bedroom or, you know, wherever you happen to be trying to come up with a solution, but also it can lead to better ways. The most important thing though, is you have to be open. You have to accept the fact both of you that you’re not necessarily going to have the smartest answer immediately.

Steve Kozel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: So, be a bit more vulnerable as you were saying Steve. So, any other thoughts from… We jump straight into our workshop? Because I know it was very topical and Mark and Julian always do a great show on that. Um, I want to talk a little bit about the presentations in a minute, but so, um, anything else, Steve, that you took away from that? The speed of the 45-minutes strategy?

Steve Kozel: Well, uh, I think the other thing, and I was having a little bit of a, um, Slack conversation in real time with one of my, uh, team members. But what I always find fascinating is, you know, they talk about the human problem behind the business problem and it’s-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel: … very much a communication barrier, but you know, once they make some assumption and, and these sessions, they almost are always making an assumption and they’ll be very clear to say, “We haven’t done any research on this. We’re just completely spit-balling some potential challenges that we might have,” but once they decide on like, this is the communication barrier, this is the human problem behind the business problem. They kind of put the business problem aside and they just focus on finding a way to-

John Roberts: Hmm.

Steve Kozel: … to most creatively communicate in, in, in a noticeable, memorable way, something that makes the, um, you know, whatever the product is that they’re working on mentally available for an audience, uh-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel: … based on some kind of spark that they can see, might, you know, might be, be a challenge in the way of communicating the value proposition or whatever, or maybe not even a value proposition, I guess I just find it refreshing that they, they kind of like pick a spot and say, “You know what, we’re, this is all a creative exercise from here on out.” Um, and it’s all predicated on the assumption that, that this is the thing that stands in the way of the business achieving its goals, and we’re gonna solve it in a creative communication’s context.

John Roberts: Yeah. Got it. So, uh, for those of you that listening and that didn’t happen to be at StratFest, it was a, there were about four or five, uh, presentations back to back, um, really great topics. Uh, and then it devolved into an hour space for choice of one to five workshops. And Steve, uh, was just talking about the, the Mark Pollard, Julian Cole, which I know was, uh, a King favor of many people. When you think about the presentations, what struck, stuck out for you? Sarah.

Sarah McFarlane: I think one of the differences from last year that I really noticed was the, the shift to presentations rather than more kind of collaborative or-

John Roberts: Hmm.

Sarah McFarlane: … or live crowd in, you know, involved, um, type of engagement, which I really missed. I think that’s one of the things that I really love about StratFest, is kind of a hands-on nature of the entire thing start-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane: to finish.

John Roberts: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane: Um, but that being said, I, you know, I think there was some really great content out there. Um, I know some of the, the folks, um, on the back end, we’re talking about, you know, kind of missing that, that they wanted to get a little bit deeper into the content that, that folks had presented. And, um, they just weren’t able to do that. Did you guys find that was kind of a limitation this year?

John Roberts: I definitely felt that from, you know, there were two or three presentations and there’s always the same, right? In any format where there’s gonna be a couple of presentations that really, really speak to you, there’s going to be a couple. So, so, and there’s gonna be a couple that, you know, don’t quite connect with you for whatever reason. Um, but good Brett and yeah. Um, that was certainly how I felt. And, uh, it came through in the Parley discussion as well of we kind of just got started on a couple of presentations-

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: … in particular. Okay. I know the, one of the certain for the people that were on Planner Parley last night, that their favorite was the, uh, Overcoming Bias in the Brief, which of course is so topical-

Sarah McFarlane: Yeah.

John Roberts: … um, right now. And I think some of that… I’ll just stay on that presentation for the moment the Overcoming Bias in the Brief, the format allowed, uh, a much richer conversation because, uh, effectively, it was a moderated, uh, panel by use of [inaudible 00:15:10]. So, we had three or four people all with different perspectives about how to overcome what is bias in the very first, what are the, the common mistakes we’re still making, and, and what, what are the things that we can do to overcome it?

Steve Kozel: You know, this, this is another thing I’ve been thinking a lot about in the context of virtual events and virtual conferences specifically is-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel: … when, when you’re at a in-person conference, your, your attention is defaulted to the person on the stage.

John Roberts: Yup.

Steve Kozel: Um, I think the burden of a speaker in a virtual event, i- it like, it is so much harder to keep an audience engaged when they’re watching on their computer or, or their phone at home. You know-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel: … it goes back to the whole focus thing, but the panel, I feel like the panel as a format has become even more valuable in my mind because it, you know, it’s unstrip- unscripted, you know, that these-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel: … points are not rehearsed. It’s a dynamic, uh, conversation and discussion. And, and honestly the more tension that is in the conversation, the more disagreement that’s happening and the more I’m instinctively tuning in. Uh, and that’s a tension that I think is really hard to manufacture in a talk in a virtual event. But I think it’s made me fall in love with the panel format even more, if you’d have the right mix of people on the right topic.

John Roberts: I think both things are true Steve. It’s, it’s really great when you think about it, which is the panel format be um, allowing us to have a little bit more of, you’re not sure what’s coming next and we all zone out. Let’s be honest. Okay. We’re, we’re, we’re our own worst, uh, enemy when we zone out in any form of presentation. Um, so that keeps us on our toes. But the second thing I think, I, you actually, one of choosing panelists who may not necessarily be feeling as though we’re all scripted and agreeing with each other, it’s nothing as juicy as a, you know, as a, as a friendly disagreement, because then that can allow you to actually think harder. You know what I mean?

Steve Kozel: Yeah. Yeah, and the, the nice thing about this virtual format is that your audience has the opportunity, um, to, to be adding their input in real time via chat or whatever the case may be, whether it actually gets surfaced as a question to the panel, maybe, maybe not. But, you know, I saw at least a few times some side conversations just happening in the chat. Um-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel:  … so that’s kind of a bonus that it, the nature of the panel format is a discussion and in, in gender there’s more discussion and more contribution.

John Roberts: Yeah, that’s great. And it’s funny, you know-

Sarah McFarlane: Yeah.

John Roberts:  … just simple look back on, on StratFest, same as at any event, when you look at where were, where was the flow? We have notes that you were scribbling down, and that is obviously tends to be the focal point. And for me, that was certainly, um, that’s probably my favorite session yesterday. One, is because of course it’s so topical right now, is what all mate ensuring that we can do more strategies. How do we better represent our true audience and really what’s going on in culture today? The other thing is, I think there were some, some great discussions that led to really simple, uh, examples about what we could do. You know, I, I took down and we were chatting last night with a few other planners. One of the presents was talking about assumption storming so much like brainstorming-

Sarah McFarlane: Yeah.

John Roberts: … you begin, okay. But begin with a set of assumptions before you even get into lighting the brief, what’s our assumption. And in this case, they were focusing on our audience, uh, and I loved it because it was, you know, Mark in fact, in the Parley last night was saying and I completely agreed with me. It’s one of those moments when you sit there and go, “Oh, I’m an idiot. Why haven’t I done this before?”

Sarah McFarlane: (laughs)

John Roberts: So, it’s on my list of things now, starting now I’m doing it. Sarah, you were nodding in agreement.

Sarah McFarlane: Yes, yes.

Steve Kozel: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane: You know, I think I agree that the panel discussion was kind of the shining star of the, of the show yesterday, for me, for all of those reasons, but, you know, kept us more engaged. You know, we were able to kind of chat with each other, which again, I think kind of reinforced that and keeping us engaged that we were, you know, kind of talking amongst ourselves and then also feeding them questions.

So, it was, I think the most interactive of all of the experiences yesterday, but also such an important topic. We were literally talking about things you can do, which for me is, you know, one of the highlights of StratFest is it’s very tactical and hands-on and, and learning, um, which was really great, but, but also just seemed like really amazing little nuggets that came out of there. Um, you know, about the assumption storming and the, the, the role of data.

And then also kind of just reinforce that larger theme that I heard throughout the day about basically our industry’s responsibility when it comes to shaping culture and, and some of the narrative and maybe even um, some of the harm we’ve done over the years in reinforcing some of these, um, you know-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane:  … systemic inequities. And, and what is our role in, in fixing that moving forward?

John Roberts: Yeah. Talk a little bit more so about the, uh, the data point you were just referring to?

Sarah McFarlane: Yeah. I mean, one of my, I, you know, just from my notes, one of my favorite notes on that was, you know, data is history and history is always biased, right?

John Roberts: (laughs)

Sarah McFarlane: So, thinking about (laughs)-

John Roberts: Yeah (laughs).

Sarah McFarlane: … um, I’ve been rolling that around in my head for the last 24 hours and I, um, I love it. I’m a data nerd, right? M- My background’s in research, so I’m, I’m always knee deep in the data, but thinking about it from that perspective, you know, I always kind of found safety in numbers that, that, you know, numbers are clean, numbers are (laughs), you know-

John Roberts: Yep.

Sarah McFarlane: … you can obviously biased with numbers it’s very easily done, but, um, but just putting that lens on it as I’m moving forward in the work, I think, um, is really important. I loved that.

Steve Kozel: There was one point. Um, and I don’t remember who made the comment, but, uh, somebody said, “Your customer of today is not your customer of tomorrow,” or something to that effect. And it was-

John Roberts: Right.

Steve Kozel:  … it was I think in reference to, there was a lot of discussion around household income as a, as a data point within demographic analysis. And I think, I think at least how I interpreted the, the meaning of the comment was that y- you may have, um, someone who is not financially in a position to be your customer today, but that doesn’t mean that they may not be at some point. And it’s a conversation that, you know, I’ve been trying to have with, with some of our clients when they, they focus so much on this notion of who they think their customer today is what they look like, how much they make, where they live, all of these things. And they, they narrow in on reinforcing that perception in their communications. And I don’t think it’s necessarily a, uh, an intentional, um-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel: … you know, boundary that they put on it, but they think, you know, I want my customer to see themselves in their communication, but I do think that we especially is, um, folks with an agency that help our clients make these decisions. We have an opportunity to help shape the perception of what a customer of any given brand could look like, could be, you know, and give them the opportunity, the runway to like grow into, you know, the status as maybe a customer of a luxury brand or being able to, you know, afford an investment in their, in their lives, uh, even go into a career that is not necessarily super diverse. So, depiction of diversity in positions that don’t, don’t actually have a lot of diversity today as a mechanism to try and reshape that perception. So, I found that aspect-

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: … of it really interesting. How can we continue to remind our clients that the customer that they have today doesn’t have to be, or maybe isn’t going to be the customer of tomorrow.

John Roberts: Yeah, I agree, Steve. And I think, thinking about, you know, looking at my notes from that, the Bias in the Brief discussion, there was also the, there’s this challenge for us, all of which is about exactly what you’re saying. The customer of today isn’t necessarily the customer tomorrow, right? But I’m also not convinced that we even really identify who the customer of today genuinely is.

Steve Kozel: Sure.

John Roberts:You know, all of our white implicit bias in the discussions that I know every agency is having about how can we better reflect a more diverse audience. Um, I sat in on, in fact, when you, when you were doing the Pollard and Cole, I, I, I joined Marina Filippelli from Orci, uh, her presentation on the, the workshop and the new majority. And that was-

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: … again, a great reminder for me, as simple as salient reminder. Okay. Data point. So, okay. So, 38% of our, of uh, the U S today is technically minority. As soon as we start talking about minority, it shifts our, our, uh, mental focus somewhere else. You know, we’ve all got clients where we talk about general market and what the general market, what they really mean is white, which is wrong.

Sarah McFarlane: Yeah.

John Roberts: Okay? So, having a different way of actually thinking about breaking down the audience, but also the different mindset of how we approach it, uh, is really important for us to know the truth. And we’re, we’re putting in place now more ways to learn, more ways to challenge ourselves as well. Are you guys seeing that, are you, uh, in your agencies, in terms of thinking about overcoming bias in your briefs?

Sarah McFarlane: Yeah. You know, I think to Steve’s point earlier, uh, about your customer today versus tomorrow, you know, one of the stats that came out of that same, uh, discussion was that 48% of gen Z are not white.

John Roberts: Right.

Sarah McFarlane: Right? Um, so to some extent, if you’re, you know, I know, I know we’re trying to make that hard shift from like hyper millennial focus to gen Z, which in my mind, gen Z is a lot more interesting. So, I’d rather play in that space, but, um, gen Z, uh, right? Is already there. They’re already-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane: … um, in that space. And so, if we’re thinking about even our customer of like next year, not even, you know, too far out, you know, that’s where we should already be playing. And I think one of my favorite quotes from that essentially that your multicultural strategy is your strategy. Right. If you’re looking at-

John Roberts: Yes.

Sarah McFarlane: … any of these populations, um, or, or these products that are safe to say a younger group, or, um, you know, any of the, if you’re thinking general market, right. Which I have banned use of that term at my-

John Roberts: Excellent.

Sarah McFarlane: That’s right. If you mean white people just say white people, right? But I think, you know, that, that was, I think a really frank and honest discussion, which was, uh, you know, really interesting that, you know, in this year of breaking all of the ways we think about everything, let’s break that too.

John Roberts: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane: Um, and just start rebuilding the way that we think about it.

John Roberts: Yeah. Steve, this isn’t about reflecting greater diversity in the execution, the outcome of the work, but ensuring that we reflect a greater diversity of, of thinking and understanding in the brief that leads to the work.

Steve Kozel: Yeah. I mean, so I know to your point, John, the discussion was not necessarily around diversity and execution. Although I do think that that’s still important and it’s certainly something that we as an agency have already started looking at. Um, you know, we work in agriculture and we work in tourism and-

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: … oftentimes those audiences, uh, depending on where the destination is, are deemed to be predominantly white. And I think that’s something that we’ve been intentionally trying to challenge in our casting, even as recently as the last couple of months. So-

John Roberts: Hmm.

Steve Kozel: … um, I think that’s something that we felt pretty strongly that we could work with our clients to push a difference in, you know, how, what the identity of, of the, the audience and the customer is. And, you know, in reflection the identity of the brand, I will say, just going back to the kind of the targeting and segmentation thing, one of the things that-

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel:  … I think, and this may have come up, actually, I don’t recall. Um, but rethinking just demographic assessment in general, and starting to think more about category entry points and thinking about, um, reaching anybody who could potentially be in market to buy. And, and what is that, that tipping point that, that puts them in market, um, to evaluate and starting to target more around those things, whether it be search or whatever that are more geared towards the audience, you know, taking some sort of action or changing their perception around making purchase, or, you know-

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: … for those of us that work with clients who don’t necessarily sell a product-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel: … uh, considering an idea, adopting an idea, supporting an idea, whatever the case may be, but, um, not starting from this place of what, what are all of the attributes and characteristics we can use to define our target audience, but instead say, what is the need state that we can identify that we can start to target against. That is the moment when people actually are starting to think about it or consider it, or, you know-

Sarah McFarlane: Yes.

Steve Kozel: … are aware of the problem, whatever the case may be.

John Roberts: It’s a cool way I think about, Steve. Because if you start from, with your point, if you start from identifying an audience, by need state or mindset, and you don’t start by the fault of demography, because as soon as we start to get into the data of demography of what percentage of our audience is X, we’re starting to make exclusionary choices, right? Otherwise, I love what you’re doing is you’re flipping it and talking about this, is about the mindset, all about the, the need, where people are on the journey, is that, is that tracking with you?

Steve Kozel: Yeah. 100%. And that, you know, folks in media will be the first to say that’s harder to do.

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel: Um, and it is, but I don’t think that, that is a good enough reason to not try. And I, I, I actually think that there’s a lot of evidence out there that it can be some of the most effective ways to go about recency planning and just finding ways to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak. But the, the, the nice benefit of that is you’re not starting with a predefined idea of who someone has to be in order to, to buy your product, instead. It’s what are they looking for? Um, what are they in, in need of? Um-

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: … and letting them kind of initiate the, the brand relationship in that context.

Sarah McFarlane: Yeah, I, I would say we’re seeing the same thing. And, and to Steve’s point it’s, you know, not only is it more effective to be talking about these like behavioral targeting, but also as the data privacy laws are changing and you know, some of the-

Steve Kozel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sarah McFarlane: … practices and the amount of data or even demographic data that’s available to us is, is being kind of pulled back. Those behavioral, um, targets are gonna be more and more critical in the future.

Steve Kozel: It’s funny, you know, I, I don’t know if, if any of you had a chance to, um, check out Sarah DaVanzo’s workshop, but just reflecting on the talk that she had. And she was a speaker, I think it was last year as well.

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: Um, you know, she’s obviously very futurist in her, um, themes and topics. And like, if I’m being completely honest, she kind of loses me a lot, (laughs) a lot of sense (laughs).

Sarah McFarlane:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: Um, but you know, I think what is interesting is a lot of the things that she discusses are inevitabilities in terms of like, these are all advancements in technology that people are going to pursue-

John Roberts: Yep.

Steve Kozel: … um, where they net out the future will tell. But I think as for those of us who are in a position to make use of them for good or for evil, uh, I think one of the things that I’ve started to consider more and more is… and I think she was kind of getting at this with trying to weave insight into technology. You know, there are certainly going to be more opportunities for us to learn more about the people whose input, whose behavior we want to influence. Um, and you know, I think to Sarah’s point like data privacy is gonna probably run parallel to technological advancements in a way there is, is gonna constantly create tension in terms of how much data marketers can actually access the target individuals.

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: It makes me go back to just old school advertising to say, like, if you can find one thing that just feels inherently true about humanity-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel:  … and it doesn’t even have to be a specific set of humans, it can just be a shared human experience and you can turn that into a really compelling creative communication and get it out in front of as many people as possible you’re going to do okay. You know what I mean?

John Roberts: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel:  Like that is the, the foundation of what has made advertising, what it is for the last, you know, however many decades at this point. So, eh, eh, I, I sense that there’s going to be a moment in time where we have to come together as, as a marketing industry and say like, “Do we really need all this data?” Or can we actually get back to being as creative as we claim to be and make people pay attention to us because they want to, not because we found a way to be precisely interruptive, you know what I mean?

Sarah McFarlane: [crosstalk 00:31:46].

John Roberts: You know, and, uh, so Sarah, as the data geek among the three of us-

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: … how do you feel about that?

Sarah McFarlane: No, I love it. And you know, one of the themes, well, I guess two of the themes that I heard yesterday that, that I was kind of, you know, interweaving in the way I was thinking about the content yesterday was, you know, this idea of, you know, per Sarah, the automation, the technology, you know-

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sarah McFarlane: … Zahra, Zahra Winston also talked about that in terms of like, um, automating some of those processes because we have less and less time. And, um, but on the other side, we also heard a lot more about being a lot more empathetic, a lot more tied into the humanity. Um, you know, coming back to those planning routes. Um, and in my mind, I think they mesh very beautifully, but it’s gonna be something that’s hard for people to grapple with it first, right? That we need to marry these two ideas of tech and automation and like deep empathy for our consumers and, and for the, the audiences that we’re speaking to. Um, but in my mind, that’s beautiful. I love it.

John Roberts: Excellent. And it was funny, Steve, you touched upon… Sarah has got this great. And it comes back to me, I think about one of the, the challenges of, of a virtual event. When we begin to talk about the beginning, Sarah has got an amazing perspective of the future. And actually, what I found, uh, happened was the presentation could establish this high perspective. But the workshop from what I heard is aware really became more real okay. Of how do you actually do that? How do you think about, you know, she was promoting in the year 2030, the, the, uh, the best job in the world would be to be an insight scientist, which is really an interesting-

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: … compound, right? To be an insight and scientist, but she was saying, you know, really simple tasks, right. Be in the noise, make sure that everyone you spend some time, even if it’s just for 30 minutes a day, being in the noise to distinguish between the noise and the novel. And for her, that was about using social media, listening tools, using other scientific tools to gather data, to just go and explore it. You’re not necessarily looking for anything. And I thought that was really interesting.

Steve Kozel: Yeah. It’s a challenge as somebody who’s spent a lot of time. I, I mean, I was literally doing social listening reports during StratFest (laughs).

John Roberts: (laughs)

Sarah McFarlane: (laughs)

Steve Kozel: There’s a lot of noise. And-

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel:  … you know, uh, even just in general, I think the amount of time that gets a lot of the research nowadays, um, is, is so minuscule in comparison to what it should be, that we often don’t have the luxury of just pure discovery. We kind of have to go in with some hypothesis we’re trying to validate, just for the sake of time, if nothing else, but I, I found myself more and more enamored in, um, in admiration of some of the boutique research, um, firms that are out there. A couple that I follow, uh, on LinkedIn are nonfiction and-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel:  … further and further. Um, they just do the coolest, like in depth research, uh, in a way that I, I, I wish we had more time to do as an agency. Um, and, and the beautiful thing about carving that out as your core service offering is nobody’s, you know, you don’t have any team members waiting for you to finish so that they can start making stuff (laughs). You know, you just, it’s just a chance to learn and understand. And one of the things that I, I feel like they’ve tapped into is the lost art of spending time with people and observing them and like doing those ethnographic types of studies. Um, eh, data’s going to tell us a lot of things that people can’t or won’t, right? Um, behavioral data, especially can be a lot more true than people’s words.

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel: People lie-

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: … people lie to themselves. People sometimes make decisions and rationalize them later. And in, in fact, a lot of times, but the ability to actually watch someone live in their environment, behave without stimulus or without like, you know, experimental stimulus-

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: … and just understand them better. Uh, man, I think if, if we had more time to do that on more projects, we could unlock way more creative opportunity for our clients because we can tell them things that they don’t even know, like truly things they don’t even know, rather than just saying, you know, we analyze the social conversation about your category and the most common word was new, you know (laughs).

Sarah McFarlane: (laughs)

John Roberts: Yeah, I hear you. And it’s, it’s gotta be, it’s gotta be a blend. Gunny is, Gunny Scarfo from Nonfiction, is probably the most, the most engaging, smart research, research and debriefer that I’ve, that I’ve, uh, had the pleasure to spend some time with. He was a, he actually was on a, a pot last season. And, and I’m going to do something more with him again, because I love learning from Gunny. But you’re right, that, that scrappy research that we’ve talked about in the past, we have to make sure we still maintain a way of finding, you now, time to do that.

Sarah McFarlane: Yeah. I think that’s been for us, one of the, um, the biggest losses in terms of, of one of our tools in the strategy toolbox during COVID has been this, you know, not being able to just go out in the field and just-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane:  … we call them immersion trips, right?

John Roberts: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane: Or just, just emerging experiences. I think someone on, um, the panel called them culture tracks. Um, but I think that, that disconnect from the actual humans and the situations that they exist in, um, has been tough. So, you know, finding those nonfiction’s those further and further as those for me, canvas aid has been really useful. Um, you know-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane: … just kind of getting those deeper, um, almost the academic view, but you gotta marry it with some of the other behavioral data and, and what you’re seeing, um, honestly, online, which is where everyone lives now, so.

Steve Kozel: Yeah, it’s a good point. And I think one of the things that I would call out as a silver lining is, um, people in general are more and more accustomed to being on a video call now than ever-

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: … um, which can give a little bit of dimension to what would have typically been a phone interview in the past.

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: Um, and it’s certainly a lot easier to record. So, even, you know, doing virtual focus groups, not that I really love focus groups in general, but, um, even just one on one end up the interviews via zoom, I think is something that is going to get easier and easier to do and find people that are willing to do, especially with, with more niche audiences where, you know, people are busy, they don’t have time. But the other thing that I think could be a cool manifestation is the more that people get accustomed to documenting their lives, whether it be Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok whatever the case-

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: … the more I think we’ll be able to leverage that, that, uh, preexisting behavior in things like video diaries, things like, um, kind of virtual ethnography, obviously it’s still gonna be people showing us what they want to show us, but-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel: … if we can prompt them to just kind of say, “Hey, you know, just like you would do this on social media, we want you to just track your life for the next three days.” And yeah, it’s not the same as being there, but, um, I think just getting a little bit more to use your word, John, scrappy about getting that stuff, uh, underway early in a, in a project, getting a client to put us in touch with a few people. Um, and starting there, I think is the, the best thing we can do to, to counterbalance this notion of, you know, analyze the, the data set and tell us what you found. Um, actually analyzing people I think is really valuable.

John Roberts: Steve has sparked now that the, the, the Segway familiar, which is the whole notion that everything we’re talking about now, the scrappy research that how do we do it? How do we overcome the challenges of, you know, being stuck on zoom for the last six months, we’re all seem to be leaning towards. And so, you talked about this from yesterday, StratFest as well. The themes of how do we add more humanity and an, an understanding about the reality of people, which is interesting for me because the last couple of StratFest, the pendulum swing, okay. The last few StratFest were about the age of data and the empowerment of science, um-

Steve Kozel: All right.

John Roberts: … an empowered consumer and where that leads us. And now I’m seeing it more and more and more threads, which is, “Yes, that’s absolutely true,” but it is to, almost swung too far to one side. Okay. The science side. And now we need to bring back more of that soul. Okay. The scrappy research, the juice about what’s something that genuinely motivates as you were talking about earlier-

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: … Steve, motivations of real people.

Sarah McFarlane: Yeah.

John Roberts: Um, and I, I, I took some of that from, from StratFest yesterday. And it (laughs) reminds me actually, some of the conversations we’re having about StratFest last year, the theme of the, the empowered consumer. And I was looking at my notes again today. And there were a couple of words stuck out for me because I think that the truer than ever. Okay. So, last year, one of the keynotes was [inaudible 00:40:48], who is a font of inspiration. I’ve been lucky to spend a bit of time with him on podcast and Parley since. We should talk about how change sucks but irrelevance is worse.

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: Right.

John Roberts: Last October, September. Okay. 100 years ago, when we had this thing that we all thought with the old normal, which was the normal.

Steve Kozel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: And, and I think that’s truer than ever now. Okay. Of course, okay. Change sucks. But irrelevance is worse, with this significant change we’re going through, we have to find a way for planners to be more relevant. Does that track?

Steve Kozel: Oh yeah, for sure. And, well, and I think, you know, I get the sense that a lot of planners in the season of COVID and, you know, early on, it was like all the trend reports all the time. It, it seemed like our discipline immediately became valuable in the sense that we were thought to be the ones who had the best finger on the pulse of what was happening next and what are consumers thinking now and et cetera, et cetera. I feel like I got the sense that people got pretty fatigued pretty fast because-

John Roberts: Hmm.

Steve Kozel: … you know, things were changing week to week, month to month. And I feel like at a certain point, whether it was the client or the agency that somebody kind of said like, yeah, maybe we, maybe we just need to assume that we’re not going to know (laughs) what the future holds for a little while-

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel: … and make the best decisions we can in that reality, uh, versus trying to just stay ahead of the curve on the latest, you know, data that’s coming in, you know, the latest survey that’s been in market on consumer opinion. I just, I, I felt like I watched people get really tire, tired of trying to keep up.

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: Absolutely.

Sarah McFarlane: Yeah. And, I, I would just add to that. Maybe even backing up a few years, I think that we’ve been kind of skirting around the edges, but we really did know that there was a gap in terms of what we would be able to uncover with our new tools, with our new efficiency, you know, metrics and, and our new practices and, and getting in there and, um, you know, implementing all this, like all the technology pieces that are now available to us, I think we do, there was a humanity gap there and that, um, that, that we were missing something. Um, I didn’t, I don’t think we knew how big it was until-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane: … this year, right?

John Roberts: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane: Um, and just how far off we could be. But I think, you know, now we’re seeing how critical that is to marry that, that humanity and that empathy and that, um, you know, real insight with all of the information that we have available.

Steve Kozel: Eh, yeah, you know, I, I’m probably hammering on the same point, and this is kind of a theme, I guess (laughs) that emerged for me unintentionally, but even just seeing recently how much clients, whether existing or prospective uh, react to seeing a, a verbatim pull quote from a customer or a potential customer.

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: And it’s funny, because I feel like a few years ago you could have thrown that out. And they might’ve said, “Well, you know, small sample size.”

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: But (laughs), but now I feel like the, it, it jumps off the, the screen more than a statistic.

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: Um, I feel like there’s… to answer your question, John, an opportunity for us to really show a client, the humanity that exists in their customer base or their prospective customer base in a way that they aren’t accustomed to seeing and hearing about on a day to day basis. Sure. Maybe they, they hear communication come from, you know, uh, the field from locations, people who deal face to face with customers. But I don’t know, like I do think that might be something that we can continue to mind. Uh, our value in is to building a point of view, that’s vocalized in the actual words of the audience, and then wrap a solution around that, that hopefully if we’re doing our jobs, right, it might actually branch into three of the other piece and not just the promotion one-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel: … um, to where we can actually-

Sarah McFarlane: Hmm.

Steve Kozel: … tell them something about what people think about their product or that it’s hard to buy or, you know, um, that it’s too expensive or whatever the case may be. Um, I know consumer insights is, is still very much a buzzy, trendy thing, but the nature of what that looks like might, might be able to shift a little bit.

John Roberts: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And you know, honestly, guys, this is, this is one of the reasons why I love doing Paul and Cole podcasts like this, because you’ve got both of you. I’ve got my head we’re now about, so you just told about the humanity and if nothing else, if nothing else, if for the next few months, six months or future, but let me just focus on the next couple of months. If I find a way as a planet to ensure that there’s genuine humanity in coming into informing the grief.

Okay, that’s going to help me really think about how do I bring in some of that by, you know, overcome some of that bias in the brief to better represent real people. And Steve, your point about clients responding to a pull quote I’m, I’m with you on that, because some of that, some that it’s just the reality. Like we were talking actually, before we started this of our clients are in their bedrooms as well. In fact, I believe most clients are probably not even coming back to any form of office shared environment.

Steve Kozel: Right.

John Roberts: That’s something that we’ve heard for the next three months minimum, right?

Steve Kozel: Yep.

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: So, actually adding in our goal is to bring real people in, to inform the people, real people in front of client be it videography. Okay. I use a fantastic low key online, um, video quote method, which allows me to get really fast clips of, uh, people’s answers, responses, or video response to a call a bit like a focus group, like you were saying earlier Ste, Steve, but it brings in real people. In real words, we all lean into it. We all are. I’m seeing real people, I’m connecting in some manner with real people.

That’s a big, big chart, task. I think for me, for the next few months as a planner to make sure I push hard on, on my wall of doing that. That’s great. I’ve accomplished time flying already. And I did sell, I wanted, I wanted to get the other aspect of StratFest. Okay. The form of three, four hours of presentations, varying degrees of successes were all said not because the content is uninteresting, but I think Steve, your point of the, um, the struggle we all have with fatigue of screen time and presenting-

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: … um, workshops were definitely, we put up some real-life examples on that, but then also there are some, some quarter case studies. And Sara, I want you to, just for you to share a little bit, because you shared one of the work you and your team been doing for your local DV calls, why don’t you talk about that for a couple of minutes?

Sarah McFarlane: Yeah, absolutely. Um, so Molly reached out, um, this year they weren’t doing the J shied awards, um, for a lot of reasons, right. And very logistically difficult. But, um, so they had a handful of folks doing, you know, pre-recorded case studies for, um, for people to consume kind of on demand. And, um, it was a really cool experience. It was really fun. I was really excited to highlight some of the work that we’d done for Chrysalis, which is a Phoenix based, um, domestic violence shelter.

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sarah McFarlane: And some of the challenges that those folks have been going through, um, you know, through COVID, the, um, the stay at home orders, um, were terrifying for folks who were in these types of situations. Because now they’re ordered physically to stay home in their, um, environment under the eye of their abuser potentially, um, limited access to, you know, the, the ways that they might be able to get help or from their support networks, by friends and family. So, um, it was, it was really great to be able to talk about that work, um, which was really meaningful.

John Roberts: Hmm. I’m looking forward to digging in. Because I know 4A’s are going to be sharing more and more of the, the case studies, but recorded from the workshops, but also those case. So, that’d be really good to learn from.

Sarah McFarlane: Yeah, I do. I have to say that format, I think has been one of the, um, silver linings of the virtual StratFest is that, you know, you had to pick and choose in the live event and yes, I’d rather be there in person. I’d rather be drinking beers with you guys in Brooklyn.

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sarah McFarlane: But, um, it is great to have access to all that recorded content. So hopefully, you know, um, I hope that moving forward, they do keep that aspect of it. Maybe that they, you know, have that all of that content available after the fact so that we can go home and dig back in and, you know, maybe do some of the workshops we didn’t do. Um, I’m really excited about the workshop piece, because that’s always been my favorite part of StratFest. It’s the, you know, kind of hands-on workshops. So-

John Roberts: Yep.

Sarah McFarlane: … um, I’m excited to be able to go back and do all of them if I, if I can find the time or the space (laughs).

John Roberts: Excellent. So, when you think of a good, the afternoon and early evening, we had yesterday StratFest. So, what would be the one thing you’ve taken away that you think this is what I’m going to do to make my agency better as a planner?

Sarah McFarlane: Yeah, I mean, I, as always with StratFest to pick up a lot of notes. I think the assumption storming right, was the-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane: … really the star of the, the day (laughs) assumption storming. Why haven’t we been doing this? I, I always love hearing from Twitter because I feel like those themes that they pull forward are really-

John Roberts: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sarah McFarlane: …um, juicy. Right. Um, just at that highest level to think about like where the, you know, the emotion and the conversation of the nation is, or even the, the world. So, those are, some really, um, strong pieces. And then I, you know, I have, I do have pages and pages of notes-

John Roberts: (laughs)

Sarah McFarlane: … which I guess was maybe the, uh, the upside of being able to watch it at home too, is you can spend a little more time. You can pause, you can rewind, you know? Um-

John Roberts: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane: … so there was that as well.

John Roberts: Excellent. So, as ever, brilliant response from a strategist to a workshop question of one thing, and you’ve given me three. That’s really fair.

Sarah McFarlane: (laughs)

John Roberts: How about you, Steve?

Steve Kozel: Uh, you know, I uh, just going back to my earlier point, like this experience has been one of a few that has kind of shaped, um, my perspective on, uh, uh, what I, what I think is most compelling in terms of, uh, event content for our industry. Um, and so uh, that’s born out of both the things I liked about StratFest versus hearing the things that maybe I didn’t like as much.

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: Um, and you know, you made the point earlier, John it’s, it’s really just down to like which topics land with you and which don’t. But I think for me right now, this year, having the backdrop of COVID and Black Lives Matter, wildfires, inland hurricanes, you know, we’re going to have an election coming up here. I find myself increasingly uh, responding to anything that is asking of my attention, attention with one of two things, either telling me how to make it easier to do my job well, or tell me how to make the world better, you know?

John Roberts: Yeah.

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Steve Kozel: Anything in between, I just don’t have time for right now. Um, and so just, you know, additional plug for Sarah’s case study, it was encouraging to see an opportunity where, you know, you can work with a client organization that’s actually helping to make the world better and, and help them adjust in real time to the circumstances that arose this year. And so, um, I, I, I find myself increasingly thinking about clients in one of two categories where it’s like, either let’s take advantage of this opportunity to do some good, make the world a better place, add some value, not just to shareholders, but to broader stakeholders in a societal context. Or let’s stay the course.

We had a great plan. It’s still gonna work. There are still uh, uh, you know, a lot of people out there who don’t want to hear another piece of communication about how things are crazy this year and instead want to be entertained or have something nostalgic or surreal, help them escape for a moment. And we can still deliver on that. Right?

John Roberts: Yeah.

Steve Kozel: So, I think that’s where my head is going is to say, either find a way to plug into those aspirational things that I think a lot of planners have in their hearts, which gives rise to things like brand purpose and, you know, focus on CSR, which are all well and good. But there’s also an opportunity to stick to what has always made advertising work well. And that’s like being a delight in people’s lives when it’s done well and, and actually giving them a moment of respite from reality. Um, something to laugh at, you know?

People talk about emotional advertising and I feel like they get hung up on emotion being like making people cry, but we can make, we can make people laugh and sometimes making them laugh is the best way to get them to remember what we’re trying to communicate. So, I, I guess that’s where I diverge is like, uh, uh, I’m like triaging things as either we’re actively trying to solve social problems or we’re just getting back to basics uh, and staying the course and not letting ourselves get distracted.

John Roberts: Be choiceful. Okay.

Steve Kozel: Yes.

John Roberts: We talk about times about you know, it’s, it’s, yes, every brand should have a purpose, but the most important thing now is being purposeful. Actually standing up for something and doing it in the, in the right manner.

Steve Kozel: Well, right. And if, if this year you’re a brand that was grasping at straws that it’s, it’s as good a time as any to think about whether you actually have a purpose or whether you hired an age- agency to give you one. Um, because this would’ve been the year to draw on that and actually moved to action based on it. Um, and if you weren’t really sure what to do, that probably means that, you know, you didn’t have one in the first place. And there’s a lot of debate as to whether or not you need it. But yeah, like, I, I don’t know, maybe, maybe StratFest, um, specifically in this year generally has kind of made me think either, either you’re gonna set out to do some good with the work or you’re just gonna do good work. But anything in between is kind of wasting that time.

Sarah McFarlane: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Roberts: Right. Clarity is good. And, uh, yeah. Uh, to echo Steve’s points there, that the case stays fantastic. What you guys did is, is not just great work, but also it had such great effect as well. So, kudos to you and, and the team there. Well, I’m at my hour, guys. And as ever, it’s flown past. And, um, next StratFest, fingers crossed, will have too many beverages in Brooklyn or somewhere.

Steve Kozel: Yeah.

John Roberts: But uh, I’d, I’d love to uh, catch up with you again. But I’ve, I’ve been thrilled just to connect with you for the last alignment. Like I say, I, I love it because uh, I learned so much. I’m enthused, but I learned so much from uh, great planners like yourself. So, thank you. Keep it up.

Sarah McFarlane: Oh, thank you. This has been really fun.

Steve Kozel: Thanks very much, John.

John Roberts: Great to talk to you.

Speaker 1: Planner Parley, a Truth Collective Production.