The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

What The F**k Is Planning Again?
July 12, 2006, 9:10 pm
Filed under: Comment

There is a real trend in planning to be described as either a ‘Business’ Planner or a ‘Creative Planner’. These descriptions drive me nuts because it insinuates that a Business Planner only cares about business goals whereas a Creative Planner only cares about ads!

Lets get this straight … if planning doesn’t help clients achieve their business goals, you won’t stay in business – it’s as simple as that.

I am lucky to have worked at some of the most recognised creative companies in the World and I never came across a client who said, “You know what … do what you want, I just want some cool ads”. 

The issue I have with planning is that many agencies are turning it into pseudo-management consultancy because they’ve sold the value of creativity so far down the river, it’s the only way they can make any decent revenue.  This is a travesty … and maybe that is why so many creatives are complaining about what a planner actually adds to the equation. [Especially as many creatives are actually, bloody great planners!]

Creativity is about a ‘mindset’, not just an ‘output’ … so if you approach a task with a ’set end-product’, you are not just letting the client down but also yourself.  From my perspective, things like emotional insight, tonality, engagement and culture and real pillars for finding the right solution – and then, still as part of a team, we find the best way to use that information to develop an idea and a channel/s to ‘execute it’. 

It’s about solving the clients business needs in a way that motivates [and benefits] consumers to do it, not just brainwashes them into it.  It’s about leaving a long-lasting, positive impression of the brand on the consumer, not just getting the money out of their wallets.  It’s about moving the brand forward, not just achieving the next sales quarter.

Of course I am proud of the work I’ve been involved with for Virgin, Apple, Jack In The Box, Tango etc etc … they were effective, entertaining and brilliant fun to do … but being honest, I feel greater pride knowing we created a pack of Top Trump playing cards when a massive organisation asked us to educate their staff about their multitude of products they produced … or that we built brick walls for people to drive through [on test drives] when a car company asked us to demonstrate ‘toughness’ … or that we created non-harmful military hardware for an international military of defence … or that we installed mobile signal blockers at luxury hotels so ‘blackberry devices’ wouldn’t work and wives of busy executives could ensure a proper family holiday again … or that … alright, I am sure you get the point.

For me, planning is about solving business issues through understanding, thinking, collaborating, experimenting, questioning, engaging, arguing, exploring, laughing – because if that stops, we’ll never have a NIKE or an Innocent or a Virgin brand again. 

If we carry on down the road so many agencies and clients are advocating, we could end up in a place like in the movie ‘Pleasantville’ … except, instead of being devoid of colour, it’ll be devoid of emotion, charm and soul.

9 Comments so far
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I guess a lot of the problem is that most clients will understand the business analyst more than the creative. But surely if you sacrifice one for the other you can never reach full potential.

Isnt the whole point of having a Creative/Management/Planning combination that you cover both the business and creative elements and make them fit together. If you focus on one above another then it can never work properly.

Perhaps thats why so many agencies that call themselves “creatively led” end up being the opposite; because by calling themselves creative they feel like they have to then enhance the business element to get acceptance from the client.

Creativity is very much a mindset, thats why some people can do it and other simply cannot.

The good thing is that there will always be brands willing to experiment because the more stale things get, the more it will help them stand out.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

There is a great quote about the Management Consultant …

“They take the clients watch then tell them what time it is.”

OK, so not all of them are like this, infact I have the upmost respect for some – it’s when they start dictating how to ‘engage’ people I get the shits.

We dealt with one at Coke and in the end I said, you can tell me what you need the business to achieve, but I’ll tell you how best to motivate people to actually do it.

Once these ‘lines’ had been drawn – things were OK, but my God, it was only because we had a good client who backed us. Eventually. Ha.

Comment by Rob @ Cynic

I assume thats Rob, if not, hi Ron!

Thats a good quote actually, though it shouldnt really be the case; if they work well they can provide so much useful information.

Its good that they accepted that, I dont understand how any company could not see the problems in hiring a specialist and then telling them how to do their job!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Errrrm, yes … it was me – showing I am not the best touch-typer in the World.

It does amaze me how many clients feel they are better equipped to create communication than the agency they hired to do it in the first place.


I am going to be doing a speech in China on the ‘standard of marketer’ … by the end of it, I’ll either be unemployed, broke or dead. Ha
It’s abit like England managers … the great candidates unfortunately drive

Comment by Robert

Thats one of the first experiences I expect to have in planning: “My job is on the line if this campaign doesnt work, you have 24 hours… got any ideas?”

Could be an interesting speech though.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

A boy goes to his Dad and say’s, “Dad – what’s the difference between potential and reality?”

“Well …” say’s the Dad, “… go and ask your Mum if she’d sleep with Brad Pitt if he paid her a million quid.”

So the kid asks his Mum and runs back to his Dad saying yes, she WOULD sleep with Brad Pitt for a million quid.

“OK … now go ask your sister if she’d sleep with Orlando Bloom if he paid her a million.”

So the kid runs off and finds his sister before returning 20 minutes later saying she would sleep with Orlando Bloom if he paid her a cool one million pounds.

“But what does this tell me Dad?” asks the kid.

“Well …” explains the father, “… POTENTIALLY we are sitting on 2 million quid but in REALITY, we are living with a couple of whores”

Comment by Rob @ Cynic

I love the comments about Nike, Virgin, etc. It’s the details of these brands, the little things that you talked about being proud of… those are what make up a great brand. And those come from the business and the creative ‘minds’ coming together.

I work in a tiny, tiny shop with small clients. But I get to wear both hats as an account guy. And for now, all our clients respect what we do. Just wanted to brag for a moment.

Nice post.

Comment by Clay Parker Jones

Thanks Clay – that’s great news, long may it continue!

Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t slagging off the planning at my place – just what many companies are turning planning into.

Check out – there you’ll see why brands like Apple, Virgin etc are as they are …

Comment by Rob

[…] trend is becoming more and more prevelent throughout the industry [the reasons why I’ve written about many times in this blog] so I beg anyone out there who WANTS to be a planner [as well as anyone out […]

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