Belting out some old-school tunes while cooking up a storm is a regular occurrence for Mitch Incoll, strategy and ideas director at OMD. Here he gives us the low down on what makes a good strategy and his slurs at crap sports strategists.
In the recent B&T salary survey, strategy positions came out as the most overpaid jobs – what do you think of that?
That doesn’t surprise me. There are a million ways to solve a problem but ultimately you’re paying a strategist for their opinion on what’s best. If your strategist speaks in riddles and can’t define their vision simply, then yes, they are probably overpaid and you should fire them. Believe me, it shits me just as much as it shits everyone else.
If, however, your strategist can clearly define and design a way forward, they are worth the pennies. If they can see what isn’t there yet, if they can lead a brand towards growth, they are of high value.
Describe your average day?
I’m the perfect storm of an energetic morning person and an enthusiastic Monday person. Most think my routine is a little weird, but I swear by it. A typical day involves a few hours of reading and preparation before I get to work. After rising at around 5:30am I’ll jot down my lucid thoughts/ideas for whatever project is going on, and then get stuck into reading the trade press, research articles and catching up on news. From then it’s the standard 15 minutes of Facebook FOMO going on, or a chat with a stranger, happening during my commute. I’ll try and soak in the world as much as I can – listening and observing to the chaos and mixed bag of behaviours happening around me. This stuff provides good chat at the water cooler and, at times, sparks an interesting observation or insight into solving a problem or learning something new.
At work I have a diverse group of brands to plan for and an amazing team for which to collaborate with. While I enjoy the daily research, data analysis and comms planning, it’s the creative component of my work that most excites me, the ideas, as I’m obsessed with ideation; I’m obsessed with facilitating and collaborating with others to solve problems; I’m obsessed with finishing the day knowing I have a better idea than before I started.
Cruising home I may hit the gym or cook up a storm in the kitchen, singing to some old tunes to take my mind of it all. I won’t bother with TV, instead I’ll go direct to streaming some sort of comedy to have a laugh and end the day feeling good.
How does working in strategy compare to say, five years ago?
The obvious difference in today’s strategy roles compared to five years ago is how brands and agencies have gone about planning with data. More information has reduced a lot of the subjectivity involved in planning, the result of which has been richer insights and an improved performance of media spend. The downside to this trend, however, has been data dominance – a dangerous reliance on science and logic (“what is”) over creative possibilities (“what could be”) to make business decisions.
Data-dominance is dangerous as good planning always has, and always will be, about getting the balance right between art and science. While ‘data-driven’ brands may be performing better for the short-term, I fear a quick decline in both relevance and resonance if they fail to conduct an equal amount of creativity back into the mix, because no amount of analysis can reveal a concept that isn’t there. In this sense, creativity is logic in hindsight. Creativity helps us design a way forward and perform even better.
What do you think are the most exciting things in the strategy world at the moment?
In my opinion one of the more exciting examples of work is from a guy in the United States called Aaron Koblin who uses data to crowd source creativity. Fascinating stuff. Other than that, there’s lots of exciting work coming from out of home providers who can fuse data and creativity to scale messages fast and frequent to the public in highly relevant contexts.
What was it that made you take the professional strategy route?
I never planned on being a strategist but I’m glad people recognised my ability to think early on and that I received the support in developing my skills. I guess it all stems from curiosity. I have always asked a lot of questions, dreamt big and challenged existing ways of thinking and doing.
Do you ever shout at managers or referees during sports on TV because their strategy is crap?
I’m a passionate sports fan so yeah I’ll shout, I’ll fist pump and I’ll be the first guy to high five and hug it out when a try is scored, a six is struck or a goal is netted! I won’t really rip on a strategy unless it’s England’s or the All Blacks. Pretty natural response really, when you are green and gold supporter.
What’s your proudest professional moment?
I wouldn’t put it down to a single moment… instead, being kind and considerate with everyday manners in the workplace make me most proud. It sounds cheesy but it’s true. It’s the little things like teaching, mentoring or helping out in some way that have the greatest effect on me. My grandfather raised me to really value this kind of thing so by doing so everyday it makes me most proud of who I am and who I will become.
And your most cringe-worthy?
When living in New York I once had to dance in the Puerto Rican day as a donut when our costume guy didn’t show up. It was an ugly sight for thousands and unfortunately it lasted for hours.
What has been your favourite job in media?
OMD. My role is diverse and challenging and the people I work with are intelligent and supportive.
What would be your ultimate role?
I think everyone dreams of owning their own agency or consultancy one day. Mine would be focused on innovation and ideation planning. It’s an exiting time to be a strategist. If you are curious, if you are comfortable in the chaos that is planning then I highly recommend you get involved.