I don’t know what it’s like Inside London, but Outside London the Planning scene seems to me to have changed quite dramatically in the last 18 months.
After agencies limped through the recession on a minimal headcount they’ve now staffed up again. And Planning/Strategy is one of the specialisms that is in growth. But in many cases, agencies have hyperventilated at the cost of hiring a new full-time ‘proper’ trained and experienced Planner and set about growing their own at warp-speed. So we now have a lot of Account-Directors-Who-Are-Good-At-Strategy and Researchers-Who-Think-Strategically as Designated Planner.
I recon it takes a good five years to train up a Planner so many of them inevitably don’t yet have the full, traditional Planner’s skillset of brand strategy + creative development (insights, propositions, supporting the creative process generally) + customer journey + workshop facilitation + qual research and so on. In effect, the role of the Planner is being devalued within agencies because due to the new wave of Planner’s narrow skillset they can’t contribute to agency output in as integral and fundamental a way or be as embedded into an agency’s client team. ‘Purveyor of Strategic Powerpoint’ is not the same as ‘Understands the brand, business and target audience inside out and therefore adds a valuable and unique perspective’. Essentially, the internal role of Planner is being narrowed to Strategist.
The irony is that agencies still need the research and business consultancy skills that a good traditional Planner brings. So the experienced freelance Planners I know are mopping up this skills shortfall by covering off in a freelance capacity research (a very senior Planner running a two group project being possibly overkill) and providing the workshops and veering-into-management-consultancy type end of things. Perhaps we’ll have to rename ourselves – Account Planner was never the most helpful job title anyway.