Daniel Marks

Tackling the diversity and talent shortage with planning internships

Headhunting firm Daniel Marks is tackling planning and strategy talent issues head on with its Planning Academy internship scheme. Dan Matthews, founder and CEO, explains more.

Back in 2014, we identified four unique issues facing the industry, based on our work with the IPA and APG, as well as client feedback:

1. Lack of diversity

As highlighted by the IPA, there is a distinct lack of diversity in the advertising industry. The Planning Academy is open to applicants from all backgrounds and ethnicities, and we will be actively encouraging applicants from diverse backgrounds, be it from underprivileged or ethnically diverse backgrounds, to apply as an opportunity to join the industry at grassroots level.

2. There is a general shortage of talent - especially junior and mid-weight planners

The talent shortage has been partly caused by the knock-on effect of the recession, with a lack of hiring throughout this time. But it’s also due to the expansion of planning to all types of creative and media agencies, leaving the talent pool stretched.

3. Losing out on talent and educating the next generation

Statistically, advertising & media is one of the most sought after fields for those entering university, but there is a huge drop off rate for graduates upon exit and many people aren’t aware opportunities within planning are even an option. Meanwhile, other industries are sweeping up some of the best young minds, and we are keen to promote the industry and educate young people about careers in planning & strategy.

4. It’s hard to get a foot in the door

It can be tricky to get a start in planning. However, experience is highly coveted. We’re keen to bridge this gap and bring the next generation of planners into the industry. By offering a placement or a mentor, this is providing an opportunity for potential young planners to learn from their peers whilst applying relevant skills including research, insight generation and support to hone their skills and gain experience in this field.

Planning Academy

These issues led us to create the idea for the Planning Academy - an awards programme to help our clients develop and nurture the next generation of strategic thinkers. The brief for this year’s award applications was: How would you form a strategy to position Guinness to a female market? The judges were looking for strategic thought, brand intelligence, creative strategy and a succinct, well thought out idea.

Our finalists this year were Jonathan Nwauzu, Alexa Mackie, Laura Marsden, Crispin Levy, Geena Kaeda, Giulia Bacco, Sophie Spence, John-Paul Li, Matt Hayes, Alex Fitzsimons, Polly Harris Saunders, Caetana Cruz, Alice Rowlands, Andrew Jones, Diamond Abdulrahim, Joe Dodd, Stephanie Chang, Isidora Mladenovic, Andrew Jones, and Abbey Gaunt.

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 135 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 and CEO, Daniel Marks

All finalists are gaining a range of benefits to launch their career in planning & strategy, including career support, mentoring from the world’s leading heads of planning and chief strategy officers, and the opportunity of a career. The overall winner receives a ‘Strategic Star’ award.

Our ‘Strategic Star’ winner, Diamond Abdulrahim, blew the judges away with her idea and presentation. On winning the award, Diamond commented: "This is what it must be like if you’re Beyoncé!"

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

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

What the judges say about the Planning Academy:

"Fantastic initiative. I love that you are opening planning & strategy to a wider audience and giving them an opportunity to meet us and learn more. Thank you!"  - Katie Mackay-Sinclair, partner and head of strategy, Mother

"The Planning Academy is an excellent initiative with a great range of promising talent". - Neil Godber, head of planning, JWT

"Love this! You brought a diverse set of candidates into a not diverse room of judges. Very intimidating but they all did brilliantly. The calibre was surprisingly good."  - Gerard Crichlow, head of cultural strategy, AMV BBDO

"Great initiative - it’s so good to see young talent from different backgrounds." - Shai Idelson, strategy and creative innovation director, Anomaly

"I think the Planning Academy is a fabulous idea. Great for the candidates to present to all of us and great for the judges to see top talent in one go". - Chris Whitson, strategy partner, IRIS Worldwide

"What a brilliant idea and event it was. The balls of all those guys to stand up in front of that audience (a group that none of the judges would have wanted to stand up and present to) was so impressive to witness."  - Tom Roach, managing partner, performance, BBH 

"I liked how you included planners outside of London. It feels like a rigorous task which makes me feel Daniel Marks ‘gets’ planning as a discipline and would get talented candidates." - Alice McGinn, planning partner, Lucky Generals 

Committed and passionate about providing opportunities for young people from diverse backgrounds to join the industry, Daniel Marks creating and running initiatives such as the Planning Academy and Big Bang have been a great step forward to achieve this.

 - Dan Matthews, founder and CEO, Daniel Marks

For more information on the event, visit


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