Watching the videos from JWT’s ‘Planning Begins at 40’ event, I was particularly struck by Jon Steel’s speech – and crucially his delivery – which made it clear that he fears that Planning has lost its place, is suffering from an erosion of rigour and unless we spend all our time ‘wading through Nielsen reports and talking to beer drinkers in Leeds’ (his words, not mine), we have missed the mark.
I’m all for Planning ‘to help clients once more to set the right objectives…not just for communications, but for brands and for businesses’ as he puts it, but I think there’s also a role for us at a more basic day to day level in helping to clarify, consolidate and communicate great ideas and great work in a way which our clients are comfortable with and with which they can present onwards and upwards. Our ability to summarise and simplify campaign thinking (sometimes into just one chart) adds instant value. It might a be a quick fix and is not exactly top level strategic advice, but no-one in an agency has a more appropriate skill set and overview to do it than the Planner(s).
Just like there are lots of different kinds of Creatives and lots of different ways in which they contribute to building brands (the POS specialist vs. the ‘we only work on TV’ teams, juniors vs. heavyweights, in agencies large and small), I believe that there are roles for all kinds of Planners and within their very varied roles there is the opportunity to contribute to both the most fundamental top level strategic decisions and to add real value to day to day work by virtue of having both an overview of the client/market/consumer and crucially, thinking time. Maybe the second way is what John Grant would call ‘Fast Strategy’, but with X number of clients and Y number of Planners in an agency, the sums do sometimes add up.
Jon Steel also seemed to be very dismissive of the interest among blogging Planner’s in being ‘Interesting’, which I think is one of the most valuable things a Planner can offer as part of their toolkit. He’s written some brilliant books and his track record in Planning speaks for itself, but on this occasion I have to politely disagree with at least some of what he said.