Daniel Marks

Meet Saatchi & Saatchi's new hire: John-Paul Li, Daniel Marks Planning Academy

"In one day, the Planning Academy opened more doors than a doorman for me" - John-Paul Li

Watch the interview with John-Paul Li about how he landed his planning role at Saatchi & Saatchi after applying for Daniel Marks’ Planning Academy Internship Scheme.

Headhunting firm, Daniel Marks, held its 2018 Planning Academy Internship Scheme a couple of months ago with a focus on tackling planning and strategy talent issues head-on.

"John-Paul Li was one of the 19 lucky finalists chosen to pitch his strategy to position Guinness to a female market", said Dan Matthews, founder and CEO, Daniel Marks. "After seeing the advert for the Planning Academy online, he only had a couple of days until the entry deadline. He decided this was more than enough time to prepare, and on the day he delivered an incredibly engaging and strong pitch."

Li was one of the last people to pitch, he entered the room with energy, passion, character and a great strategy vision. He said: "Being allowed to demonstrate how you think to some of the best thinkers in the industry, all in one go, is a mind blowing opportunity."

The idea for the Planning Academy came to light in 2014 when Daniel Marks identified four unique issues facing the industry from its work with the IPA and APG, as well as from client feedback. In a nutshell, these are:

  1. Lack of diversity
  2. Talent shortage, especially junior and mid-weight planners
  3. Losing out on talent and educating the next generation
  4. It’s hard to get a start in planning

The judges were looking for strategic thought, brand intelligence, creative strategy and a succinct, well thought out idea. The brief for this year’s applications was to target Guinness to a market where it is commonly associated as an occasional drink that is often consumed in the autumn and winter months, in relation to certain sporting events such as rugby and annual calendar events such as St Patrick’s Day, by a predominantly male audience.

The outcome of the day was for judges to identify which junior planners they could see themselves working with and fitting into their agency, with the potential of a paid internship, expert guidance, mentoring, interview tips, advice, insight and more.

"We were recently delighted to hear that John-Paul Li (one of the stand-out applicants) had continued conversations with planning partner, Craig Adams, at Saatchi & Saatchi, which led to them offering him a full time job", enthused Matthews.

On the day, the judges decided the Strategic Star award winner was Diamond Abdulrahim who blew the judges away with her idea and presentation. She has since been hired by RAPP.

Nineteen finalists were successful with 135 meeting requests from over 40 judges and agencies involved, including the industry’s most recognised chief strategy officers.

The panel included strategy partners, directors and heads of strategy from London’s top agencies and brands.

Li added: "With the increased use of tech like ATS by HR departments, initiatives like this are vitally important. A human can spot the creative potential in someone, whereas AI can’t (yet)."

"Daniel Marks is proud to be leading the way in introducing fresh and diverse talent into what is one of the most exciting Industries on the planet. We were looking for curious, inquisitive minds and with over 130 meetings requested by the strategic leaders from 40 leading creative agencies, I think we’ve found them! A huge well done to all the Planning Academy finalists and a heartfelt thank you to all the judges for being involved and bringing this new talent through their doors".

- Dan Matthews, founder & CEO, Daniel Marks

For more information on the event, please visit


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