What makes a good planner? Fairy dust for starters.


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A handy slice of opinion for your consideration. I will add to this list of requirements and welcome your thoughts on it!

I like the ‘adds the madness to the method’ thought.

I’m not so keen on the advice of avoiding simplicity (or not rewarding it), as I prefer looking at our work as distilling and simplifying (vs one word simplicity perhaps). More reflective of the “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” problem. (Quote by Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), not Mark Twain by the way.)

I like the ‘hyphen’ thought: the more hyphens in your title (writer-director-actor) the more opinion on the world. There is a legacy problem with thought ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’. This hangs over our heads and it’s unfair. Breadth is important, as empathy and understanding can guide solutions out of silos and into new areas.

The role of specialist is there in the mix, but perhaps the Stephen King vision of planners as ‘master strategists’ is more useful to the future of the discipline. Ad-tweaking should not be our lot. Nor should we be obsessed with minutiae beyond knowing what craft skills to employ and avoiding silly mistakes when generating direct response. Our clients’ days are full of detail, so much so that they can’t always see the wood for the trees. They should look to us to provide inspiration by joining the dots between initiatives and insights from a more objective standpoint, rather than following them around worrying about the day to day.

A clear need comes from the video’s opinions for people with a broad curiosity who are also interesting themselves (‘interested and interesting’), and for people who can add a touch of magic.

What a romantic vision! But it is a useful way of talking about the diagonal skills required in this job.

Mr Pollitt believed this when he instigated the discipline at BMP

“The account planner is that member of the agency’s team who is the expert, through background, training, experience, and attitudes, at working with information and getting it used – not just marketing research but all the information available to help solve a client’s advertising problems.”

(Stanley Pollitt)

One final thought I like comes from G.K. Chesterton. It sums up the ‘no-man’s land’ that planners find themselves in on a daily basis. This place creates fears that can lead to timid proposals. But it’s a reality and one through which we must navigate if we are to find motivating solutions for our clients.

Nothing is so remote from us as the thing which is not old enough to be history and not new enough to be news.



One Response to “What makes a good planner? Fairy dust for starters.”

  1. I’ve always liked the ‘planners as creative midwives’ analogy. To be there to comfort, to not overcomplicate things, and allow ideas out into the world.

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