I increasingly feel like Planning as a discipline/specialism within agencies is over-complicating things. Never mind thinking about what’s changed since Planning’s inception in the 1960’s, so much has shifted in the UK even just the last 20 years.
Back in the 90’s (yes, I’ve been a Planner for that long), clients liked seeing the thinking behind the Big Idea – in pitch terms, Planning’s ‘four slides’ that summed up the thought process before the creative was unveiled. By the Noughties clients were impressed by the research insight, charts and graphs that Planners produced to back up the thinking behind the Big Idea (‘fifteen slides’) – which clients could then handily lift to sell the campaign to their own board/boss.
Then with the arrival of Digital and later Big Data clients were desperate for someone to make sense of all the data they were drowning in and agencies stepped in with extensive and time consuming ‘planning’ processes requiring data analysts, CRM experts, and many, many spreadsheets.
Now it seems that many larger clients (and by extension their agencies) have got so used to extensive process, rigorous research, robust data analysis and more charts and graphs than the average PhD thesis that they feel completely unable to approve any creative campaign without it. I suppose it’s a reflection of some client’s need to have ticked all the boxes – ‘we followed all the process, so if it doesn’t work you can’t blame me’.
But in the process of implementing all this Process, it seems to me that Planning (at least Planning as it is practiced in many UK agencies) has lost sight of it’s most important and unique role – to make sense of complexity and identify exactly what brand truth or nugget of insight will help make communications more effective.
Which is ironic, because exactly what all these processes and piles of data need is a planner responsible not for ‘workflow 4.3’ but for looking at all the eventual outputs and making sense of them. In four slides.
And if you look at how agencies and clients are starting to shift as a whole towards agile working, ‘always in beta‘ and the like, a three to six month strategic development process is going to hamper things a tad.
Essentially, I think we need to bring old school, back-to-basics, just-get-on-with-it 80’s and 90’s style Planning back to help simplify all this complexity and speed things up. If you must, embrace a Process, but make sure you get a really good Planner in to crack on in the meantime and interpret the outputs.