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

To Be A Good Planner, You Need To Know How To Use Excel …
January 25, 2011, 6:03 am
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I found this post in my email draft box and to be honest, it’s bloody ancient … however given it gives a great insight into what some people/companies think planning is – or is in danger of becoming – I thought it worth putting up.

Before I rant though, I have to thank Niko who found it for me – though why he didn’t write about it is beyond me, because his venom makes rattle snakes quake in their, errrm, boots.

Now I want you to imagine your perfect planning job.

Go on, imagine it.

Who would it be for?

What would it involve you doing?

What clients would you work on?

Would you be spending oodles of time exploring the weird and wonderful?

Would you be talking to clients about amazing ideas that could change their fate?

Would you be developing stuff that impacts life as well as advertising?

Would you be dealing and collaborating with interesting, talented individuals?

Would you be respected and evaluated by actions, not words or powerpoint docs?

Would you be mixing with cultures and communities and finding out the real issues in their life – and better yet – helping come up with ways to change them, all with the support of your immediate team and client?

Would you be associated with things that impact culture and create a legacy and blueprint for the future?

Well if any of these ring true, you won’t be interested in this job:

Look at it.


Being highly numerate and having IT skills [read: EXCEL, WORD & POWERPOINT] are at the fucking top and creative thinker and integrity are at the bottom.

[So is ‘sense of fun’, but after reading through that list, you know pretty much that’s where it would be if you ended up taking the job]

This isn’t a planning job, it’s a prison sentence and yet this is the actual job description for a planner that was placed on LinkedIn a while back.

I am beyond grateful that I don’t even know what an ‘Excel with pivot table’ even is … so I pray for whichever poor bastard ended up taking the gig, because it contravenes everything a planner is – and should be – and the fact they will know they’re in a situation that basically guarantees they have no chance of ever being able to show what they can do must be devastating to the extreme.

OK, so maybe it’s not that bad.

Maybe it’s just a really badly written job description and the actual gig is OK.

Let’s be fair, most job descriptions sound pants when they’ve got every minute detail written down in them.

Seriously, look at your current job, I bet you’re doing many – if not all – of the things detailed above in some way aren’t you?

Oh who am I kidding, that job sounds shit – I mean if the company behind it knew what planning was really about, they’d of at least written it in a way that made all the nasty stuff sound like a support to the good … but no … they gave it pride of place, which is a massive indication that they don’t know what planning is nor do they value what a planner can do and add, other than fee justification to clients who treat the agency as a production supplier for averageness. Ahem.

To be fair, the job description I use for planners would probably look just as bad as the one I’m dissing.

You see the things I focus on are less about technical capabilities and more about their approach and attitude to life.

Personally I seek people who have experienced a varied life … have points of view based on what they’ve seen, learnt, tried and failed at … have a real empathy and understanding of people. All people. Not just hipsters or others in the ad industry.

I adore folk who have worked/tried 2 or 3 industries before entering adland … who have the same “best friend” they’ve had for decades … who have smarts but aren’t desperate to prove it and are open about what they know and what they’d like to know.

Without doubt, I value people who are entrepreneurial, inquisitive, honest, decent, continually open to learning new things and [a bit] socialistic in their values over someone who has fantastic excel spreadsheet chops … but hey, that’s just me.

Saying that, I appreciate if I put all that into a job description I’d probably get visited by the mental police rather than planners/interesting individuals, so for me, the key criteria I use when looking/judging people is …

1 Empathy [the ability to truly relate and understand the needs/wants/fears/loves etc of people – not just the specific consumer category]

2 Ingenuity [the ability to discover new ways to do/explore/prove/understand ‘stuff’ with business/financial relevance]

3 Opinion [having one – preferably because of what you’ve done in numbers 1 and 2]

4 Action [doing stuff, rather than just saying stuff]

… mainly because to have those characteristics, you’ve probably lived life – rather than a lifestyle – and have experienced highs, lows, crap jobs, great jobs … stuff other than JUST advertising!

Don’t get me wrong, industry – and academic – knowledge is brilliant, but if you can’t use it to relate to a Mum with 3 kids who survives on $100 per week, I’m not going to be interested … and that’s maybe why that LinkedIn job description bothers me so much, because it’s literally that, the description of a job and for me, great planning comes from people, not a bunch of process-focused, tangible attributes.

58 Comments so far
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Even though I think your criteria for a planner ensures Superman is the only one who can apply, this is a fantastic post.

That linkedin job description is terrible but I don’t think it is the exception. Many agencies view planning as a department designed to extract incremental revenue from their clients which is why the focus is on data and reports rather than discovery and advancement.

Comment by Pete

I know what you’re saying Pete, but I don’t think it is entirely the agencies issue – I would say that the clients who subscribe to this view of planning are also to blame.

Saying that, I do believe there is a lot of planning that is undertaken that has little – or no – point whatsoever, and while I accept a lot of this is done because someone senior [client/agency side] has told them to do it, I do find it amazing and sad how few planners actually actively look for new ways/people to help them on their task, when this is probably the best way to achieve what is wanted but in a way that leads to newer, fresher thinking and knowledge.

If I wanted to know what I already knew, I’d talk to the mirror … planners need to excite and enchant in all they do … and while that shouldn’t mean try and make a big deal of something small or innocuous … purely stating the obvious is hardly helping their cause either, even if their is great value in rechecking where you/people stand on certain views and topics.

Comment by Rob


Comment by andy@cynic

If the writer of the ad was also accurate and paid attention to detail, they would have written numeracy, not numerate and would not so freely have interchanged personal pronouns. And what version of Excel doesn’t come with pivot tables? Recruiters! Don’t get me started.

Comment by John

get started dodds, let the fucking anger and frustration of 20 years out.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m with Andy … go on John, let rip …

Comment by Rob

The pivot table point epitomises them – giving the same status to something that can be learned in less than an hour as to other traits that many people will never learn in a lifetime.

It’s all about finding reasons not to hire someone and it leads to safe short-term decisions that foster caution, mediocrity and mission statements.

Comment by John

Not that I’m bitter.

Comment by John

we really should of had you at cynic. we probably would if we werent fucking worried about maintaining katerinas modesty.

Comment by andy@cynic

Wonderful comment John. Tragic, but wonderful.

Comment by George

Tragic because of what John say’s is the attitude of too many companies in relation to the people they want to employ or tragic because John said it?

Or both?

Comment by Rob

That linkedin ad forgot to mention “must have chip on their shoulder about their creative talent” and “be a dick”.

Comment by Billy Whizz

And ‘ability to smack creative department tools’.

Comment by Rob

My tool is bigger than your tool.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Almost right Billy, what you meant to say is you’re a bigger tool than the rest of us. And for once, I’m in total agreement with you.

Comment by Rob

i should fucking hate this post. i should fucking loathe it but instead im finding myself nodding. of course its got fuck all to do with campbell and planners, who gives a fuck about them, its because what the fucker is blabbering on about is part of a much bigger problem and thats how agencies treat their people and expect from their people.

on one hand they want an army of specialists so they can up the fucking fee to their clients because they dropped their pants on everyfuckingthing else they used to make cash from, but then they dont really want specialists because that would cost them too much so they get the fuckers to churn out pointless bollocks after pointless bollocks so they can keep charging the client for “rebriefs” and yet look like theyre working really fucking hard when theyre really doing fuck all except killing braincells. theirs. clients. ours.

its the maccas approach to business. dont let the lunatics get too good at any one thing and you wont have to pay them more and if you do make the mistake of having someone get good, give them a job title because thatll be enough to satisfy their fucking ego.

how many fucking hr people in agencies have worked in other departments in the agency? how many know what the fuck is going on? then why the fuck would any of them go in to the hr dept if they were any fucking good at the other job they did? but the agency bosses think this shows they care. sure it fucking does, how else could hiring some inept ad flunkey to handle their people issues be interpreted.

good post campbell, even if you didnt mean it to be,

Comment by andy@cynic

Underneath all the psycho-ranting, you raise a lot of great points here … please don’t make it a habit.

Saying that, given you say that no one in adland is nearly as specialised as the industry likes to present themselves as being, my speech about the “limitation of specialisation’ is suddenly looking completely redundant which is a complete pain-in-the-ass.

Comment by Rob

limitation of specialisation? if thats not the perfect fucking proof planners are wankers i dont know what is. when is this speech? let me know so i can come and throw rotten fruit at you. thats still in their fucking wooden crates.

and its not psycho ranting you cheeky fuck. its the sort of shit that should get me a knighthood or a nobel prize or some other fucking big sounding wank. the invoice is in the post.

Comment by andy@cynic

I love that you would send an invoice in the post … it sums up your techno-capabilities perfectly … but to answer your request, the cheque is in the post too. Ha.

PS: I know that sounds a wank title, so answer the phone and you can tell me the content is even worse when I take you through it.

Comment by Rob

that linkedin wank isnt a job for a planner, its for a fucking data entry assistant. same thing i guess.

and why the fuck do they want them to “think on their feet”? by the fucking sounds of it, the only people theyll get to interact with are the other prisoners in the guantanamo bay of agency departments.

Comment by andy@cynic

At least that linkedin job description doesn’t say they are looking for people who are “curious”. I despise that overused and entirely generic descriptor.

Comment by George

they do you blind twat.

“curiosity for the opportunities digital can offer”.

youve just ruled yourself out of that job because your accuracy and attention to detail fucking sucks.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m devastated, I was sure that job had my name written on it.

Comment by George


Comment by DH

You have made my day George.

Comment by Rob

Don’t give up so easily George. I’m sure Andy’s reference would sway them.

Comment by John

Well it would certainly have some sort of effect.

Comment by Rob

For the record George, I am absolutely with you on the bollocks that is “curiosity”.

It’s not that it’s wrong, it’s just that I hate how it’s become the defacto term for planning … as if no other job in the World either needs or uses it – plus it implies planning is all about “saying, not doing” and you know how much that pisses me off.

Still doesn’t take away the fact you made a fucked up comment though. Ha.

Comment by Rob

creeping fuck.

Comment by andy@cynic

Great post, and this:

“The pivot table point epitomises them – giving the same status to something that can be learned in less than an hour as to other traits that many people will never learn in a lifetime.

It’s all about finding reasons not to hire someone and it leads to safe short-term decisions that foster caution, mediocrity and mission statements”.

is the smartest comment I’ve read in a while.


Comment by Ciaran McCabe

excluding mine you mean ciaran. you do fucking mean that dont you.

Comment by andy@cynic

You’re upsetting the carefully balance of power Ciaran.

But I agree, it’s a very good comment. I wonder who John got to write it for him.

Comment by Rob


Comment by Marcus

Great comments all round.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

[…] very hard to argue with them. But according to a handful of people I respect, that’s not the essence of a great planner. I suppose for anyone who is classically trained, there’s a risk of compromising […]

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you better not be saying you respect campbell. for your fucking sake, make sure youre not saying that.

Comment by andy@cynic

It always surprises me how many agencies put creativity and personality bottom of the agenda. The whole point of what we do is to make better creative work and therefore make more effective work which brings in money for both client and us…

Yes it’s good to have that knowledge but as John says you can teach pivot tables in an hour.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Kind of related comment over on Johnnie Moore’s blog:
“I’ve always had a visceral reaction to that word competencies. Years ago I was chatting to a prospective client whose opening line was, “So what’s your core competence?”. It was the first time I’d come across that phrase and it was like a doctor doing a prostate check without asking: confusing, and definitely not pleasant, even if there may have been some positive intention buried in there somewhere.”
“… like a doctor doing a prostate check without asking: …”
I like that (before you say it Andy, I don’t mean the check).

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

You know Johnnie Moore too? This is very alarming.

Comment by John

You’re just jealous, John. Or something.

Comment by Marcus

another fucking name dropper, thats all i fucking need.

Comment by andy@cynic

I think right now if it was me hiring for somewhere I ran, my first main question would be:

Who are you?

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Only recruitment question worth bothering with is:
Do you pour the milk or the tea first?

It’s very funny asking a shiny interviewee what they think is bothering, say British Mums, the most. Or why the X factor is popular.
Some obviously live outside of the hipster, planner bubble and have an opinion and inkling of what it’s like for real people.
Some, painfully do not.

Comment by northern

or if shes a fucking babe, “how badly do you want this job?”

then after katerina, id make sure i also asked “is your boyfriend a russian mafia hitman hard bastard?”

Comment by andy@cynic

Usually, coffee first. As I am proactive, eager to learn, flexible and able to think on my feet, I will always serve you tea made the way you like it, sir. Do you like scones for your afternoon tea, sir? ;).

Comment by Evolution

now youre fucking learning evolution. northern only drinks fucking tea, but if you can get him youporn on his computer, youre in for a big fucking end of year bonus.

Comment by andy@cynic

No problem. By sheer chance, a friend of a friend told me about more sites that can be used to study mating habits and explore new business models for online advertising. I reckon that is valuable information worth a double bonus. Think about it, the sites can be the research basis for the next campaign.
Concerning the bonus, may I humbly suggest a tea mug and T-shirt that got “I <3 My Job" printed on :)?

Comment by Evolution

dont talk to me about a job, campbell destroyed all my fucking hopes and dreams, talk to northern, hes got a job and a baby. hes on the ladder to middle management fantasyland.

Comment by andy@cynic

At least, you won’t get a heart attack from raging over ‘planning bollocks’ then ;).

I thought I was talking to northern. He does not seem to be interested in someone who could serve his favourite tea and scones, get on board by generating earth-shattering insights using his kind of special interest websites and being happy to get a mug and T-shirt instead of money. What sort of Exec is he? Unbelievable. I have to tell Martin over a flute of Dom Pérignon about this.

Comment by Evolution

seems hes one of these noveaux riche fucking northern bastards. tea is probably code for fucking caviar.

Comment by andy@cynic

Just got off Skype. Silvio told me that between him and Vladi caviar is code for something different. Must be cultural differences then. When I asked what, he got furious and hung up. He probably was hung over from last night’s party, the old badger.

Comment by Evolution

Nouveax Riche? Don’t you know I drove a Kia Rio until 2 years ago?
Here’s the proper job descriptions then:
Makes tea in a warmed pot, always pours the milk first, bone chine mugs please
Serve with teacakes (scones for crissake!) still hot with Lurpak melting into it
Find game changing insights through free porn (Cambpell’s already done this, hookers was an escalation)
Facilitate all meetings with a Prince or Smiths soundtrack
Be a talented babysitter

Comment by northern

I’m so bored of being over-paid and excelling at game-changing challenges every day. I’m good with kids. That sounds like my kind of job.
I hope you don’t mind learning a bit of sign language so you can send me to make you tea during a Smiths shimmed meeting. Because I wear ear plugs or headphones so I don’t have to listen to disturbing noises. Which makes me a happy babysitter, too, BTW. What’s the pay? The mug and T-shirt are not going to cut it. I was just joking to get a foot in the door. Sneaky me. My mate Martin told me how to do that.

Comment by Evolution

campbells been very fucking quiet. wonder if thats because hes decided to do some work or because hes been in meetings with dan wieden and john jay all fucking day.

2/1 hes at home in tears trying to explain to jill why they have to leave china immediately because a bloke in a beard and a man with weird fucking art want to rip his fucking head off. i live in fucking hope.

Comment by andy@cynic

Maybe he’s working out how to tie shoelaces

Comment by northern

or he cant fucking hear us because his head is stuck up wiedens ass.

Comment by andy@cynic

[…] an Opinionated Sod. It’s extracted from the whole so go check out the rest of his musings on what makes a planner, which are excellent, of […]

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Love this post. Totally agree

Comment by Dino

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