So, you want to be a planner?

Comments (2)
by Emma Watton, Director of Strategy & Client Delivery, Block

Some things really get me riled up and preaching on my soap box (usually after a glass of wine, but in this case a morning coffee was enough to fuel me). I've always struggled to buy into the idea that you're either a suit, or a planner. It seems as old fashioned to me as the quaint notion of being an 'advertising agency' or working in the Direct team, Digital team or Ad team, or whatever other silo 'advertising agencies' still put up with.

If you're in Account Service, I think you have to be really good at two distinct areas to be a fabulous asset and rocket through the ranks.
You need to have an open mind, an attentive nature, a high care factor for others and an ability to understand people and their motivations. You can make sure people work together to get things done. You get people and relationships and have an emotional maturity to be a natural guide for others in complex environments.

The other fundamental skill is curiosity that drives knowledge, and also has the ability to engage and inspire others through identifying its relevance and implications. It's this later one that really sets the good suits apart from the great ones, and if you have both - wow (call me).

Being a suit (or a creative, or a psychologist, or a gardener) should be the perfect training ground for becoming (or being!) a planner, but if you're in a place where you feel the need to 'be a planner' and you can't be a suit whose planning skills and focus shines through, then just maybe you're working in one of those places that still think of themselves as an 'advertising agency'.

An excellent suit sees and understands the business behind the brand, they absorb and can articulate knowledge on human connections and can grasp what makes transformation, not just evolution possible for brands.

I'm not saying planners - well some of them - aren't great. But I am saying you can be a great suit who is also a great planner.


John Ilian said:

Damn right, Emma.
When I was CD at Clemenger (mid-nineties), I tried to get rid of ALL titles - including Copywriter, Art Director, Account Planner, Account Manager, Production Manger, Media Planner etc.
You became either a 'Thinker' and worked on the client's business - irrespective of your skill set. Otherwise, you were a 'Doer' and worked solely on the agency's business (Agency Payroll, Agency Financial Management etc. IE: you had bugger all contact with the client).
We developed a program (with Gary Tranter and Matt Cullen's help) called 'Give a Damn, Make a Difference.' It was accompanied by the 'Damn Difference Rewards Program - an internal incentive scheme that rewarded originators of ideas that actually 'made a difference.' If you want more details, call me (0409 56 76 56).
The program was embraced locally, but attracted some criticism from the Melbourne and Sydney offices - due in the main to the NIH factor [Not Invented Here].
Nonetheless, Emma - your point about silos is relevant.
More power to your elbow.

John Ilian.

Carolyn Hall said:

Totally agree - The best 'planner' I ever worked with was an Account Director.

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