Matt Andrews, the joint managing director at Vizeum UK, says it has to be the Michaelides & Bednash founder George Michaelides for the way that he single-handedly led the move towards a focus on programmes: "Previously, it had been all about ratings. He pioneered the use of bespoke and qualitative research to understand what people were really engaging with. For instance, on the launch of Blackcurrant Tango, they advertised in only one programme - TFI Friday. To go to an advertiser and tell them they were only going to be in one show was, at the time, very brave. But the awareness tracking they got for the ratings they bought was amazing. It blew all preconceptions away."
Gerry Boyle, the chief executive of ZenithOptimedia, nominates Laurence Munday and Simon George, the founding partners of Drum: "Although Munday and George are not planners in the traditional sense, they have had a major influence on the evolution of TV sponsorship. For the launch of Egg in 1998, they came up with a proposition that centred around individuality. Every peaktime programme on Channel 4 (at the time, these included ER, Scrapheap Challenge and Time Team) was sponsored, not by Egg, but on behalf of individual customers of Egg. This was supported by individual promo films of these people discussing why they liked the programme and quick cuts of those individuals' lives."
Jon Gittings, the head of strategic planning at Manning Gottlieb OMD, says that, in general, the very best TV planning understands how the notion of influence flows from TV into other spaces. As for individuals, he reveals that the first person that comes to mind is Ben Hayes, a partner at Goodstuff Communications: "I've sadly never had the pleasure of having my very own guru, but I've never failed to enjoy Ben's company, opinion and all-round brilliant smartness. We've shared buildings on a number of occasions, and his passion for the business, selfless approach to integration and collaborative instincts put many to shame. The loyalty he has inspired from his team is proved by those that have followed him into Goodstuff."
Mark Holden, the global director of PHD Network, says it has to be Simeon Adams, now the planning director at Metro, but previously at Mediaedge:cia: "After meeting at Watford College, Simeon and I joined up as a creative team. After just one knock-back from Bartle Bogle Hegarty, we split up and went into media, but I think you can see unsatisfied creativity emerging in his work. Simeon's time at Mediaedge:cia saw some groundbreaking work. He was one of the first planners to pioneer live TV ads while working on London Pride, taking the first ad in the break and then overlaying live scores and commentary. This innovative use of TV was the cornerstone of an award-winning campaign."
Charlie Makin, the chief strategic officer at BLM, says we should consider Steve Jenkins, the associate director of AMS, for his work on Red Bull. Red Bull has a library of about 20 ads, and the strategy is all about matching the content and themes of the right execution to the themes and content of particular programmes. It's a strategy that demands a lot of hard work and attention to detail, but it pays off. Makin suspects, though, that the very best TV planning goes unrewarded, because, by definition, it should be unnoticed. It certainly shouldn't be eye-catching: "The ultimate objective is to make sure your customers see enough of a commercial in the right context, and everyone else doesn't."
Marie Oldham, the head of strategy at Media Planning Group, nominates Simon Sadie, the worldwide media director at Aegis Media: "Having worked within ten feet of Simon for a few years, my nomination is based on the way he approaches every single brief with a huge passion and drive to find powerful consumer or channel insight on which to build creative and results-oriented communications plans. His great intellect is applied to every area of the clients' business, and this has led to award-winning planning for clients such as Orange. His passionate approach can bring him into conflict with clients and creative agencies, but they usually come around to his way of thinking."
Russell Place, the chief strategy officer of Universal McCann, thinks we should consider Matt Cory, the client services director of Coast Productions: "Increasingly, the television landscape is no longer just about traditional spot and sponsorship - audio-visual content needs to be tailored around the specific environment it appears in. What I like about Coast is that each piece of branded television content is carefully planned and crafted. This means the promotions, programmes and cross-platform extensions are at one with the surrounding environment. On brands such as Toyota and Canon, Coast shows a sophisticated appreciation of the brand identity, the broadcaster needs and what the core target audience wants to watch. This has led to the creation of powerful and enduring branded content properties."
Ivan Pollard, a partner at Naked Communications, points out that TV planning no longer has clearly defined edges: "The planners that impress me most are the ones who navigate their way through this indeterminate and changeable world by applying their own version of 'fuzzy logic'. They make great stuff happen and bring clarity to a broad definition of TV as the basis of their work. On this basis, I will big-up Andrew Carter, a TV director at OMD. He's technically a TV buyer, but his thinking, his adept handling of a wide portfolio of TV options and his unquenched thirst for the next big idea in his work for 118 118 all set him a notch above the ordinary."
Mark Sherwood, the executive planning director of PHD Rocket, says it has to be the Thinkbox chief executive, Tess Alps: "TV is a wonderful thing - entertaining, involving, engaging, educational and loved, more or less, by all. A great TV planner is someone who understands all this, but then also knows how to make TV work for the advertiser. The one person I think whose sheer passion and knowledge of the industry means that she delivers all this and more is Tess Alps. She gets it, she can explain and then she can make it happen. She also understands that online doesn't mean the demise of TV, rather, she thinks it provides a huge opportunity."
Sue Unerman, the chief strategy officer at Media-Com, says that when she asks people about their favourite bit of TV planning, there's one clear answer - Domino's sponsorship of The Simpsons. But she also insists that we mention Alps: "She has to be one of the sterling contributors. Although she has clearly now moved on to championing TV in general, her role in pioneering ways of using TV has lasting resonance. I will never forget her getting a sanpro brand to sponsor a series of women's movies at a time when it was ground-breaking to have even television ads for sanpro on the telly. But for Domino's and The Simpsons, well done Pedro Avery (the managing director) at BLM."