Last night at the APG’s Noisy Thinking: Is it possible to think long term anymore?…

…it became clear that we as an industry have matured into a new reality. We no longer work in a business where results can wait. There is no ‘long versus short’ argument, the reality must now be ‘long through short’. The requirement is work that sells both immediately and forever.

By no means an easy feat, but from the evening of brilliant speakers 3 guiding themes could be deduced:

1. Focus on the unchanging to guide us through the flashy

We must truly understand our client’s brands, and what makes them unique to people in the real world. The unchanging human demand they cater to must remain our north star. We can then look outward and into the future and strive to keep their offering fresh. We need ideas that make a noise no matter what the future throws at them. With this human foundation it helps us avoid jumping on flashy and ineffective trends. A notable example reference was Snickers who have kept a 98-year-old brand fresh in innovative ways, whilst maintaining its focus on its core human demand.

2. Have a strategy that is focused on big and small

We need a strategy that’s capable of being big and being small. A long-term strategy with its roots in present day. We must do the best things right now. Long term ideas engineered for immediate success. In the end, big campaigns must work in 6 weeks. For this we must focus on the smaller campaign levers, as well as the big. What’s happening ‘in the weeds’ as well as at a top line level. As a truly long-term strategy is non-existent, we must be forever fresh. IKEA’s ability to maintain long term effectiveness through activating around ‘the everyday things that matter’ is a strong example of this.

3. Measure what counts, now

He wasn’t there on the evening, but Einstein did say it best “not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”. We need to understand and agree on what metrics matter, and design systems that inform today, and project tomorrow. We cannot afford to kill resource drowning in meaningless reports to get this done, we need to have an effective measurement framework that is bespoke for our client’s goals. For example, Tom Roach from DDB suggested a client’s share of online search could be early indicators of longer-term effects – like brand salience.

It is still about building brand equity and growth for our clients. But the new and recurrent theme is that now counts and what you do next really counts.


Gareth White, Strategy Director, Hearts & Science UK