Rhonwen Lally, Advertising

I'm Rhonwen, and I'm a senior strategist

Describe your job

In a nutshell, strategy is about solving problems through analysis, creativity and logic.

Clients come to us with a problem. As a strategist, I spend a lot of time thinking about the problem – unpicking it, getting under the skin of it, and understanding the problem behind the problem.

It’s then my job to find a way to overcome that problem, by defining a strategy to change what people think, feel or do. I set out in search of a solution by reading and researching as much as I can about the brand, the category, the audience and culture, which helps me uncover insights to fuel the strategy. There’s no one way to a strategy, but generally the key is in finding a bridging point between what the audience really want in today’s world, and what the brand can authentically offer.

The tricky bit is that the best strategies don’t just say something true that people already know, they say something surprising and interesting that changes the way people think or feel about something. Otherwise, it could just be ignored.

This strategy is then developed into a presentation for clients, and a creative brief for creatives – which are the 2 main ‘outputs’ of a strategist.

The creative brief is the starting point for creative work, which sets the message and direction for what the advertising needs to say and do. I then brief the creative teams, who use it as a starting point to develop ideas for adverts and campaigns.

Overall it’s a super interesting role where you get to dig deep into a brand, their audience and culture to define interesting solutions to problems.

What are the most important skills you need to do your job?

Most planners I know didn’t have any official education or training in strategy or advertising before they started.

We all learn on the job, but there are a few things that make planners, planners.

They’re interested in why people do what they do. They’re often keen on psychology, sociology, behavioural economics and like reading around these topics.

They’re both analytical and creative. As a planner, you need to be comfortable digging though the detail of research reports, but also be able to make creative leaps to get to interesting answers.

They’re observant. They’re usually good listeners, and often notice things that others don’t.

They can write a compelling, logical argument. This is a skill most planners learn on the job, but it’s essentially the foundation of the presentations and briefs that are a strategist’s main output.

They like researching. At the core of planning is digging, exploring and uncovering useful information and insight that will help define a strategy. This might be through interviewing people, reading a report, or exploring the depths of Google.

They’re critical thinkers. A big part of being a good planner is asking the right questions, and not taking things at face value.

I left school and...

At school I was always someone who was somewhere between the sciences and the arts. I liked a bit of everything which was probably why I ended up doing a Geography degree – which stretched from the science of global warming to the economics of the drug trade.

After uni I didn’t have a clear idea what I wanted to do, but was interested in communications and brands so did an internship in PR.

PR just didn’t feel right, so I tried another internship in strategy at an ad agency.

That felt much more ‘me’ so I stayed there and luckily they hired me after a few months.

I stayed at that agency for 2 years and learnt the ropes of strategy, before moving to my current agency.

I’m most proud of...

Your Army Needs You.

This campaign sparked a huge amount of debate when it launched, but it’s gone on to be the most effective Army recruitment campaign of the last 10 years, and has won awards at Cannes, APG and Effies.

Before I started my career, I wish I knew…

There is no right answer.

In a creative industry there isn’t a single ‘right’ answer to the problems you’re trying to solve, you just need to find the best one you can.

A mistake I made which you can avoid repeating is...

Thinking I need to have all the answers. Sometimes an opinion can be just as valuable.

So, what’s next?

I’m keen to get more experience of the research and insight side of planning, and use my strategic skills for some different shaped problems.

Here's my:

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