Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote:
There was a girl
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead
When she was good,
She was very, very good,
And when she was bad, she was horrid.
Planning in an Agency is the same. When it is good, it can be very good. When it is bad it can be horrid.
One way to make sure that Planning is good is to make sure the function is held accountable. You must define what you expect them to deliver. Here are three suggestions.
Improving Creative Quality: If this is the deliverable, the Planning function must focus on inspiration. This can be done through the discovery of deeper insights and break-though approaches. The Planner must also be able to look at creative work-in- process and be able to diagnose if there is a problem. He must be able to clearly diagnose the problem and deliver feedback to the Creative in a way that it is understood, accepted and addressed.
The metrics will be similar to those used by the Creative department. They will include awards and internal measures of creative quality.
Improving the hit rate in New Business: If this is the deliverable, the Planning function must take the lead in understanding what will win the pitch (this often is different from the business problem) and craft the content of the pitch in the right direction. This will often mean applying consumer understanding and insight digging skills to the prospect. Finally, the planning function must take the lead in the presentation and help deliver the “Wow” factor that will tip the balance.
The metrics will be directly related to new business success.
Showcasing Thought Leadership: If this is the deliverable, planning will be called upon to create and market new approaches to a wide variety of subjects related to Marketing, Technology, Communications and Consumers. Planning will be expected to publish thought provoking points of view in prestigious journals. They should be involved in industry panels and think tanks and generally be acknowledged as experts in a particular field. They might want to become published authors or popular bloggers.
The metrics will be similar to those used to establish intellectual authority in the world of Academia.
It is quite likely that the Planner will have to do a little bit of all three. This is fine. Just make sure that the deliverables are clearly laid out and that the function is held accountable. The quality will inevitably improve.