I’ve experienced the Magic Fairy Dust problem quite a few times, particularly as a freelance. You get asked to work on a project, but quickly realise that there’s no actual role for you and no real problem for you to solve – they just want some Magic Fairy Dust sprinkling on the whole thing and have come to believe that Planners possess pitch-winning, client-retaining special powers that will somehow make everything better. No pressure then.
The broader problem seems to me to be that with an Account Planner’s role being so unhelpfully titled, open to so many interpretations and properly understood by so few, it’s very hard for someone who doesn’t work regularly with Planners to understand exactly how and where we might add value. Particularly when there’s nothing to work from (research, market intelligence, competitor review, anything) and no time or budget with which to go insight hunting.
In an emergency I can post-rationalise a strategy into the finished creative if I have to or write a pitch doc in 3 hours flat but I can’t magic up slides out of nothing – real-life example: agency: “we need some more pitch slides”, me: “about what?, the client has specified the target audience, key messages, proposition, strapline and look and feel in the brief, this is practically an artwork job”, agency: “just slides, with Planning on them!”.
I’ve said before that one of the biggest challenges Planning professionals face is educating the half of our industry that doesn’t employ Planners about what we do and why we do it. Mind you, I’ve met a few agency bosses who actually do employ Planners and are still a bit hazy about what they do all day…