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David Howard, Head of Planning, Fold7

4 min, 6 sec read
13:15 PM | 20 March 2015
by Adam Oldfield
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David Howard is Fold7’s head of planning and has over 20 years’ experience in developing brand and communication strategies for a wide range of domestic and international clients. Previously he was both head of brand development for Publicis Groupe and global planning director at Saatchi & Saatchi and has led award-winning strategies for brands including Guinness, Visa, Ford, BT and Boots. He was responsible for the creation of the Oystercard for TfL, and the Getty Images media brand in the US.

Where did you study?

This question has the whiff of nepotism about it! Suffice to say I studied undergrad and postgrad courses in gloriously 'useless' arts subjects at a couple of UK universities, ancient and modern.

How did you get your lucky break…?

Well you did ask…….I was at this party……I'd missed graduate application deadlines, I bent the ear of someone who was doing graduate intake and they told me I could write a letter (pre-email I'm afraid!) explaining why I should be considered (I was better looking in those days) and I was hired as a 'research assistant'. I quickly discovered it was a made-up position that required me to read decks and data no one else could be bothered with. Oh the glamour…

Whats life like at Fold7 and how would someone go about landing a job?

We are a young company – we’re a few years along but we still have that start-up mentality. We want to excel at everything we do and want all of our clients to believe their investment in us is more than justified. As a team, we always set ourselves high standards, which means no one at Fold7 just 'comes to work'. It is a very energetic place and ‘everyone’ gets to have a view on the work, which after all, is what it’s all about.

"Getting a job at Fold7 is all about demonstrating the same kind of 'us against the rest of the world' mentality…"

Getting a job at Fold7 is all about demonstrating the same kind of 'us against the rest of the world' mentality and being clear about what skills you would bring.

Which pieces of your work mean the most to you?

I'm a planner so maybe I take a different kind of satisfaction from campaigns. Generally the kind of work that stands out for me is where consumers have been successfully encouraged to look at a very familiar brand and/or category in a completely new way. Somersby Cider is a good example of that at Fold7.

How would you sum up the differences between small and large agencies?

Advertising is a synthesis of the artisanal and the manufactured. In my experience, all agencies, large and small are populated by brilliant and passionate people, who are committed to what they do. In some instances, in some of the larger agencies this 'manufactured' aspect of our trade appears to have been 'encouraged' to mutate into 'mass production' with accompanying 'alienation of labour'. This would be a definite difference.

"Advertising is a synthesis of the artisanal and the manufactured."

(NB. Umberto Eco, author, academic and all round clever Italian guy has stated that The Communist Manifesto should be required reading for all advertising agencies. As an exercise in masterful polemic it certainly gets its idea across).

Whats your method of tackling a brief?

Great question. I don't have a set method per se but I do have two habits concerning how I work.

The first is kind of a watch-out. I call it 'situationalising' for short. It is where I might have made a thorough job of describing consumer attitudes, product features, sector landscape, competitor propositions etc without ascribing enough effort to the implications of all of these. It sounds really obvious but I have sat in a few client 'strategy sessions' that have fallen into this trap.

"As long as you genuinely want to crack the problem, your very own 'miracle muscle' will keep on wrangling."

The second is I am a really big believer in 'low order processing'. Where the brain is allowed to chew on a problem whilst doing other things (like playing table tennis!) As long as you genuinely want to crack the problem, your very own 'miracle muscle' will keep on wrangling.

Do you have any personal rules or motto?

A previous boss of mine (he would know who he is) once suggested I kept a piece of paper in my pocket at all times with the phrase "the client might be right" written on it. I have done so ever since.

The other one I have kept close came from a hoary old automotive client who once pithily pointed out to me that "marketing was a term invented to get graduates into sales". We are here to sell stuff. There, I've said it.

What do know now that you wish you had known at 21?

That 2003/ 2004 would be Arsenal's 'invincible' season.

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