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

Microwaveable Planning Careers …
October 28, 2011, 6:13 am
Filed under: Comment

It’s a very un-British thing to say/do, but I think I’m quite good at what I do.

Sure, I’m no superstar, but all in all, I think I can hold my own.

OK, so when you’ve been doing this planning lark for as long as I have – and with people and agencies that I have – you’d hope some of their brilliance and experiences has rubbed off on you … however that aside, I think I’m OK at what I do.

I say this because I’m getting more and more alarmed at what is going on with this industry.

I’m seeing more and more people being given massive planning titles without – as far as I am aware – any formal experience, let alone training.

Sure, at it’s heart, planning is pretty easy.

If you have empathy and a bit of curiosity you’re half way there.

OK, so you also have to be able to take that and find a way to turn it into commercially creative inspiration … however it’s certainly not as complicated as many like to claim and I can easily understand how people from different backgrounds and industries can come into it and be awesome.

And of course there are those annoying bastards who are just brilliant at it from the get-go.

I’ve worked – and work – with a few of those and you know they were just born to do it. Or at least born to understand how to do it.


But back to my point.

Even though planning is not the hardest job in the World and there are people out there who just have an unnatural ability to do it … the amount of people who have come in to the discipline from nothing and are planning heads in a mere matter of months is alarming.

Maybe it’s me.

Maybe I’m not good at what I do.

Maybe I’m totally and utterly deluding myself … after all, it’s taken me over 20 years to get where I am – whereas these other bastards are hitting the heights with only a year or so of experience.

And some of them are going into the industry brand new. I don’t just mean adland … I mean working.

Yes … in a matter of 12-18 months, there are people who are going into a job and being the head of the department in the time it takes most of us to decide what phone we are going to buy.

As I said, I know there are some exceptional people out there – people who scare me with their sheer brilliance – but not all these ‘planning heads’ fit that description, at least not from the outset.

Maybe if they were producing interesting work I’d feel less pissed about this.

Something that changed how people think or a brand behaves.

But most of the time, they can’t … because most of the time, they haven’t done anything.

To be fair, it’s not their fault.

Seriously, it’s not.

If someone offered me a massive payrise and a fancy title, I’d definitely consider it.

The real issue is that companies are willing to do this.

Companies are willing to put people in positions they are no where near ready for, so that they can claim to their clients they have people in those roles and they can charge them more in their monthly retainer.

Which means 5 things:

1/ If they’re so willing to have a department in their organisation run by someone who has no experience in that discipline, let alone running a department – then companies don’t actually value what planning can do for them and their clients.

2/ Companies are happier giving a payrise and/or a title than actually training and nurturing their staff.

3/ Our industry continues to devalue our relevance, value and importance to business and society … not to mention filling the marketplace with people who are are wrongly ‘labelled’ or ignorant [and arrogant] to what their true abilities are.

4/ Clients will become lazier – hiring agencies more on fee than ability. In essence, making us more like an up-market temp agency than an ad agency.

5/ Everyone ends up losing out – some in the short term, everyone in the long.

Being the head of a department is – or should be – more than just a title and a pay rate.

You should be directing the approach of the department.

You should be contributing to the vision of the agency.

You should be leading the charge for the people and brands you represent and live amongst.

Which is why if I was a client and I wanted to be sure the strategists I was entrusting with my business were worthy of being entrusted with my business, I’d start by asking the head of the department one simple question:

“What is your experience?”

What a shame so many clients just don’t seem to care.

46 Comments so far
Leave a comment

planning is a pretty fucked up load of bollocks at the best of times but its going to be an even more fucked up load of bollocks if this shit continues. clients and agencies get the results they fucking deserve and the fucking shareholder suffers for their shortfuckingsightedness. again.

Comment by andy@cynic

Am I mistaken or are you agreeing with Rob again?

Comment by DH

Worse, I read this post and I agree with Rob.

Comment by DH

yes but i did it because im drunk and you did it because youre a fucking gay.

Comment by andy@cynic

You’re right Andy, shareholders are suffering for the shortsightedness of the companies they have invested in but I don’t think they care, because it’s all about the % increase on their dividend and if that comes from lowering the standard of the talent … which lowers the standard of the work … so be it.

Comment by Rob

adland is a temp agency for the shit clients dont or cant fucking do? aint that the fucking truth. this is almost a fucking relevant post campbell. who wrote it for you?

Comment by andy@cynic

this shit isnt just limited to adland either. companies promote to the level the person fails then blames the fucker for not being good at the thing they were not trained to be good at.

Comment by andy@cynic

Trouble is, our craft (advertising) is an art not a science as Mr. Bernbach said oh so many years ago. And it’s much easier to fake an art than a science.

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

Is it a craft? I appreciate there’s craft elements – certainly more than science – but isn’t that also the crutch people have been using to explain why they DON’T need to focus on some real deliverables, because it’s more art than commerce?

Just a question.

Comment by Rob

I know, look at Queen

Comment by northern

Brilliant post Robert. Well said. This is an issue that needed to be talked about and I’m glad you’re the person who opened that door, especially regarding Asia, which was bad when I was there so I presume has got worse rather than better.

Comment by Pete

maybe because, like social media, it don’t effect the bottom line/real agenda’s of these agencies/clients, so why the fuck not get some dimwitted pretty boy floyd/fly girl in to talk about strategic issues on a meta (and always in beta) macro level, while all the while calling themselves xxxx (pottery baker, master mozzarella maker or some obscure thing) who does a bit of strategy on the side.

Comment by niko

But it can and does affect the bottom line. For both agency and clients. Well it does if the work is good and the quality is expected. If not, it’s simply a tickbox in a process.

Comment by George

I’ve just have been told to fuck of by one of three cynics missing (took you bloody long time compared Campbell and Andy ..)

just need to piss of Pete and Billy and I can leave with my head held high.

@billy is a closet planner

@pete Wave, Buzz, Page creator

Comment by niko

That made me laugh rather than upset. Sorry Niko.

Comment by Pete

excuse my ex business partner niko. he seems to have had 2 espressos in the space of 8 fucking hours and is now lashing out at everyone and everyfuckingthing in a caffeine fueled rage. its not you, its most definitely fucking him.

Comment by andy@cynic

There is nothing I like more than watching a young and talented planner in full flow. Hearing their views and how their brain works is extremely exciting for me and gives me confidence that the discipline I have spent the majority of my adult life working in, has a strong future ahead of it. Then I read this post and remember talent, brains and leadership skills have stopped being the prerequisite requirements for many companies and clients when choosing their department head and I feel saddened and disappointed.
How will the young and talented be nurtured? How will they be encouraged to stay in the industry? How will planning develop?
I do not know how bad this situation is around the World but I sense it is not exclusive to just the Asian markets. This is a tragedy for the reasons stated but in this short term thinking world, not that surprising. The good news is the best clients and agencies in the World do care and show what talent is capable of achieving through the work they produce.
A good and important post Robert.

Comment by George

Apologies for the long post. I am surprised by it too.

Comment by George


Comment by andy@cynic

and boring as all fuck.

Comment by andy@cynic

Does it feel good to know you’ve still got the power of planning boredom? Way to go George.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I did. Alarming.

Comment by George

no. its called fucking predictable.

Comment by andy@cynic

Bloody hell. And I thought I went on rants.

I should point out – just incase it wasn’t obvious in the post – that I am not opposed to young and talented people heading departments or being given huge responsibilities, nor am I against smart people from other disciplines coming in at very senior levels … this is about junior people with little or no planning experience [however vague] being given big titles because it allows their company to tell their clients they have a ‘planning head/department’ and can charge more fee – when all that is likely to happen is disaster.

This is not about age or trying to justify my job, it’s just about standards and I feel we have undermined that to such an extent we are encouraging our own collapse.

As I said, I am not entirely blaming the people who take on these roles with little justification – and I appreciate you can ‘develop and learn’ on the job … this is more about agencies and clients who embrace this or turn a blind eye to it because all they are doing is highlighting their desire to ‘feather their own nest’ and/or hide their own inadequacies.

Comment by Rob

It must suck being old.

Comment by Billy Whizz

it must suck being a deluded twat.

Comment by andy@cynic

One of your best Robert. An excellent read.

Comment by Lee Hill

God, are the rest of my posts really that bad?

Comment by Rob

Now I truly believe in shared consciousness. I have been thinking about this for a while and was planning on mailing you to ask you to write about this. And you did! Without the mail.
This by far the most relevant post I have read. It really pisses me off when I hear Planners say that they will move to another agency for the money and more so for the ‘title’. What kind of a fool does one have to be to think a title can make them deserve what comes with the job ‘title’. And then they roam around handing over their business card to everyone, arrogant bastards!
Anyway, love the post. Well done Rob. There will be surely come a day when things will change.
Cheers to Talent not Title!

Comment by swati

Shared conciousness or the power of your planning/manipulation skills?

I hope I don’t come across as some bitter bastard, maybe if I’d just said we need to celebrate and aspire to ‘talent not title’ it would have been better.

It certainly would have been more effective.

Thanks for the comment and I’m glad you get where I am trying to come from.

Comment by Rob

I would like to become a planner. How would I go about it?

I like to think I can plan things. No, seriously, I am good at planning holiday agendas and the like. My wife manages the money though.

Please advise what else I would need to get a break into adland.

Comment by C.Brown

You are perfectly qualified for a senior planning role at [insert big agency name]. Please send your information – as well as a black and white, moody looking headshot forthwith.

Thank you.

Comment by Rob

What does popped popcorn have with all this? poor popped popcorn.

Comment by toto

It’s microwave popcorn.

From nothing to the finished article in 30 seconds.

Comment by Rob

It’s not your best metaphor

Comment by northern

at least hes not talking about his best mates cock.

Comment by andy@cynic

let’s just forget that story

Comment by toto

Can’t agree enough. You can’t escape actually having done the job.
But that’s not good enough, that’s what happens at the crappest client companies. Some talentless jobsworth keeps this/her head down doesn’t rock the boat and by jingo, they’re head of marketing in a few years.
So I wouldn’t just ask what is your experience? I’d also ask what difference you made.

Comment by northern

Experience can be dangerous though, I get sick of twats who try and win debates by reminding everyone they were involved in a half decent project 5 years ago.
So the third question I would ask is what can you contribute to what we already have?

Comment by northern

any fucker that asks a planner to help them is fucked from the start but to keep this uninspiring fucking commentary going, id ask one fucking question. prove why i should fucking trust you. whatever the fuck they say or do next will tell you all you fucking need to know.

Comment by andy@cynic

i was taught only to trust dead relatives

Comment by niko

they talk less shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

this raises one incredible huge point which is most alarming to me…reference checks! i’ve personally encountered many people who have left my company to take on huge roles at competitor organisations with huge titles that were completely unwarranted. had myself or one of my other 100+ colleagues been bothered to be called up to conduct a reference check, im sure the hiring decision would have been different. of course as a referee, your responsibility is not to jeopardise the position of that person, but if you are quizzed as to whether a junior is ready to run a department, a positively diplomatic approach based on honesty is what can be expected, right?
so, why don’t people conduct reference checks anymore???????????????????

Comment by reenie42

Yes, amazing how that simple task seems to have gone into the ether. I suppose if they can’t be bothered to do that simple thing, then they get what they deserve.

Comment by Rob

Just as long as they look the part … designer eyewear, messenger bag, macbook pro, birkenstocks, etc.

It doesn’t matter if all they can do is what any competent account guy used to do, and should still be doing.

(There aren’t many of them left, either, and ‘title inflation’ is just as big a problem there – Account Director after three years? Please.)

Planning is all too often just a bandaid over the lack of account team thinking on the business. Clients often don’t really know the difference, either, and don’t much care.

It’s made worse by the fact that the agencies hiring them are only paying lip service to planning. Not because they don’t respect it, more that they haven’t ever really experienced it, so really don’t understand it, but know it’s something you ‘have to have’ these days.

‘The job’s fucked’ as they say in the police.

Comment by Ian Gee

i dont know who you are ian gee, but i fucking like you. keep up the fucking bitching, it saves me the fucking effort.

Comment by andy@cynic

Leave a Reply