A staple of car journeys in my early childhood was a tape by the late, great Johnny Morris (of Animal Magic fame). It was made up of lots of poems and nursery rhymes set to music, including ‘Spring Morning’ by A.A Milne (the Winnie-the-Pooh man), which includes the lines:
If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You’d lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You’d say to the wind when it took you away:
“That’s where I wanted to go today!”
Where am I going? I don’t quite know.
What does it matter where people go?
Down to the wood where the blue-bells grow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.
It strikes me Planning in general has, in recent years, been content to let the wind take us away.
As new business processes shifted away from pitches, as digital stopped being a channel, at a time when we have more information at our fingertips than ever before, Planning as a discipline has never really got to grips with redefining its role.
The Voice of the Consumer bit still stands up, but in a multi channel, often multi agency environment where ‘creative’ covers everyone from art directors to techies and the economy is screwed, how do we define how Planning actually adds value?
As digital teams use social media to get closer to their brand’s customers, as research agencies see more and more value in adding proper Insight to their own offering and as demonstrating ROI becomes the holy grail, Planning will have to fight its corner for ownership of Insight.
Maybe instead of being responsible for Insight gathering and dissemination, the role of the Planner should shift more towards being an Insight Coordinator, pulling together what the client, CRM, PM/SP and Digital guys know to create an overview of What We Know and What We Don’t Know But Should – and then adding primary research to fill in any gaps and create an overarching brief for everyone to work from.
Jon Steel wrote in Admap last February that “Great Planning is about creating an environment where other people are more likely to come up with good ideas”.
To my mind, the Account Planner’s role in 2010 is as Insight Coordinator, Brief Writer and Ideas Facilitator. Oh, and as Russell says, Planners should know when to get out of the way. Anyone fancy coming up with a snappy job title to cover that lot off?