Monday, September 22, 2008

planners caught in the middle

Let me know if you've experienced something similar:

your super smart insights help win the agency new business.
your strategic prowess helps position the brand within a dead category.
you excite the creative teams: they are creating Nike.
production begins.
then nothing...
some management conversations happen here and there, you hear tidbits about this and that, you "plan" for more work, etc. etc.
no "work" comes from management.
you call a meeting to "get everyone on the same page"
come to find out management has made decisions on strategy's behalf but rest assured if it's the wrong decision, strategy will be called in to save the day or we lose the business.

Agencies count on us (planning) to bring in new business with our vibrant talks of the possibilities and insights which drive them. The agency also counts on us to diagnose problems and remedy situations with a strategic sounding board when business falters along the way. But when we're not involved along the way, how can our strategy be the best?

Strategy exists for the betterment of the work. We are here to ensure results. In order to win and RETAIN business, please include us along the way. Caught between management and creative, I understand we're easily forgotten with no tangible piece of proof that we exist. Just like the brands we create every day, planning is a sense of something more - it's there to be engaged with, a smart personality with which smart agencies become associated with.


Kyle Studstill said...

When I was out at Avenue A | Razorfish in San Fran, it was interesting to see how much work that the small strategy team (six of us, one account planner) had to put into communicating the role strategy played in the agency and the value account planners add, internally to account and creative groups. And for much the same reason as you've outlined. I'm sure the one account planner felt the same kind of frustration in a lot of ways.

It was interesting to me, coming right out of university where that value is immediately apparent, and then seeing how various disciplines within agencies are in many ways just now figuring it out. I've come to think of it with a bit of historical perspective, seeing how the account planning movement has slowly jumped the pond and trickled into US agencies over time - relatively, it hasn't been all that long. For those like me exposed to strategy and planning in university, the way strategy is supposed to work makes perfect sense. But for those who have been on the account side for much longer, I'm sure things are completely (albeit frustratingly...) different. Thanks for the thoughts!

windo said...

i'm struggling thru this right now as well. planning is a new discipline here. most of the creatives and conceptors don't really know what to make of us. we're just another "check-the-box" along the process. i sat on a call today to discuss and get alignment on the concepts, without having even seen the concepts yet. "hello, can someone send me the ideas please?"

mikej said...

from what i hear in the US clients are quite literal. They see the end result.. is it fun and does it have a big logo.. not what got them there.

Two things I believe:
1. Dont be a black box of come here and I will do the strategy and give it back to you in a month. Bring everyone with you like a shepherd leading a flock (but from the back of the pack not the front). Make everyone feel like they came up with it all (Russell Davies says this is the main reason he is where he is). Including them throughout the whole process with one question... 'what do you think about this ??' you can do this with clients as well. Take their viewpoints and feed them back to them when you are selling your work
2. We are in business... people will do whatever they believe is best to make money in the quickest way. Management thought it was easiest to do that. This will always happen... get used to it. Two ways out... befriend them with the same tactic as above. Sell yourself and your discipline in a quiet way. Why do you think the english are great planners... because they are quiet and considered, not loud and aggressive (huge generalisation). Learn when to pull out... pick your battles. This will only happen if you have a great open relationship with the management and learn from them and people who have the client relationship

hope that helps