Opinion: Creatives are creative and so, at last, are the planners

Planners have taken a long time to learn creatives’ confidence. If the industry is to prosper, both groups must work together more closely, Julian Saunders argues.

Planners have taken a long time to learn creatives’ confidence. If

the industry is to prosper, both groups must work together more closely,

Julian Saunders argues.

I believe planning is about to emerge from the shadows. After years of

pleading, Account Planning Group activity and awards programmes, I think

I have, at last, witnessed a new self-confidence.

I saw it at the first APG gathering of the year at which three of our

brightest and best were invited to talk on ’how to get ahead by being


You see, it’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it that


Here were planners prepared to say ’I’m creative’.

It’s such a refreshing move forward from all that desperate stuff about

how ’planners really do contribute to the creative process,


And why doesn’t Campaign recognise our contribution?’

Desperate words. Much better to shut up and look mean and moody.

Our brightest and best cracked the problem. Once you have said ’I’m

creative’, it’s a short step to behaving ’like a creative’ with all the

implications for a wardrobe change and fresh mannerisms.

So we had David O’Hanlon from HHCL and Partners acting for all the world

like an art director. Charts everywhere, never been on a presentation

course, masses of self-deprecation, excessive use of ’sort of’ and


But he didn’t just do a method actor’s version of an art director. He

had two brilliant strategies - quoting Nietzsche and refusing to answer

questions because his thinking is secret.

Fantastic stuff. On a par with Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s breakthrough all

those years ago when it gave away its thinking but refused to give away

its creative work.

Here was a man with the courage to say: ’I’m not even going to tell you

my thinking, it’s too valuable.’ Even as he was speaking, I could feel

long depressed ad margins moving reassuringly upwards.

John Grant from St Luke’s displayed all the lateral thinking of a top

copywriter. Mountains appeared on a flip chart - and we were going to

climb them.

But Grant wasn’t just ’lateral thinker par excellence’. He introduced

new-age mysticism. I was desperate to know more. How would we climb this

mountain? Why were media planners left in the foothills? A client should

pay big fees just to take part in the ascent.

MT Rainey was more managementy. She had no time for all this


’Planning,’ she asserted ’is the new creativity.’ Rainey Kelly Campbell

Roalfe charges for ideas. Rainey, at least, is prepared to put her money

where her mouth is.

Can you imagine if this caught on at BBH?

Prospective client: ’Any chance of showing us some ads?’

BBH: ’No, we don’t do that.’

Prospective client: ’Will you be talking to us about your thinking and


BBH: ’No. Our ideas are like precious jewels. Our planners are precious

too. Each one is capable of quoting Nietzsche and Proust in the original


Prospective client: ’You’d better have the business then.’

The evening was compered by Chris Forrest who eschewed the ’I’ll just

gaze at the ground and mumble’ approach.

Yes, things are looking up.

’Planning is the new creativity’. (Thanks, MT.) It confirms what I’ve

always instinctively known. The best planners have a strong creative

bent and the best creatives can be brilliant planners.

An alliance between the two is very powerful and should see off the

threat from management consultants who, as Martin Sorrell has pointed

out, are trying to eat off our table.

An infinite number of management consultants will probably arrive

eventually at the same analysis of the problem. Creative people give you

the solutions.