As I travel around the world working with Agencies, I often get asked to recommend a good Planner. They are much in demand and very hard to find.
So what makes a great Planner?
My experience tells me that you should look for four things:
A real understanding of the Creative Process. A Planner’s real job is not to write documents or flashy presentations. It is to provide direction and inspirationto the Creative Department. The Planner can only do this if he truly understands how ideas are born. He needs to recognize that there is no process to mechanize idea generation. There is no formula to plug in the problem at the front end and come up with great ideas at the back. He needs to understand, accept and embrace the randomness of the creative process.
The ability to synthesize. A Planner must wade through all the existing information and clearly and simply identify the problem that must be solved. He must then provide a kernel of inspiration that will help spark a creative solution. He cannot be the person who complicates things or loves to listen to himself. This will cause projects to stop and start. He will confuse things and go off on a tangent. Eventually, the people who actually have to come up with the solution will roll their eyes and tune him out.
Experience in the advertising trenches. The Planning Department is the “Ivory Tower” of the Agency. It is removed from the everyday chaos so that the Planner can “think”. This is fine as long as the Planner understands the realities of the business. And the best way to experience the reality is by working in Account Management or Creative. These are the two departments that are always in the firing line and only here, can he learn the difference between the theoretical side of advertising and the reality. If the Planner does not live in reality, the Client will have no use for him.
Life experience. It is the blessing and the curse of the young to think they have all the answers. Everyone knows everything when they come out of University. It is only with time that they learn that things are not quite black and white. With life experience comes understanding, perspective and empathy. It is not the same to read about raising a child than to actually do it. It is difficult to understand marriage until you experience it. A Planner will have a much more insightful understanding of “people” when he can complement his observations and research with invaluable life experience. This will help spark much more nuanced and interesting advertising approaches.
The next time you are looking for a Planner, put aside the resume and try to get a feel for these four things. Your chances of finding a good planner will get much better.