Take two: How DLKW Lowe revamped planning

Planning departments have never wielded so much influence, yet still too often resemble a backwater. DLKW Lowe is trying to combat this by trialling a new way of working, Anna Vogt writes.

Take two: How DLKW Lowe revamped planning

Most planners write about how planning should work. This is about how planners should work.

We’re trying something new at DLKW Lowe. We’re changing the way planners work in pursuit of ideas that are bigger and braver and can morph into different shapes and spaces.

Planning, as a function, still suffers a bit of a hangover from how planners used to be. A bit too slow. A bit too intellectual. More interested in strategy than creative zest.

No point in rehashing how times have changed. Because we know they have. And many agencies and de-partments have evolved to deliver against new standards and expectations.

Except planning. Still very traditional. Still the minority in every agency. The lone wolves, the intellectuals of low octane. Not all of them. But still too often. 

Planning’s influence is more important than ever, so we need to find a way to increase its presence and profile. And make it a profession that attracts exciting creative thinkers.

Welcome, planning partners
At DLKW Lowe, every planner has an official partner.

We are doing this because we believe it will get us to the type of work we want to do more of. Work that steals an unfair share of attention in culture and sales. 

Two people working together, of the same world but of different backgrounds, creates a collision that is productive and inspiring and will push the boundaries and comfort zones of everyone involved. 

Each planner still fronts their own account, but the fact that we are formalising a partnership means that there is consistent influence and challenge around day-to-day thinking. Every account will benefit from one planner officially. Two unofficially. 

It’s not just about input but output too
There is another benefit to working in pairs. You don’t just think differently, you start converting theory into practice. And that’s what we need more of. Planners who want to answer their own briefs. Put ideas on the table alongside their creative. Throw their hat in the ring. There is something about working in twos that fosters entrepreneurialism. Maybe it’s confidence. Or the optimism and energy you experience when you agree on something good. It isn’t a coincidence that most start-ups have co-founders. The star and the director, the liquid and the container, the doer and the dreamer. Complementary skillsets is what we looked for in pairing our planners up. And the measure of success is always, and ultimately, if you get to better work as a result. 

Influence across the board
And by better work we don’t just mean thinking, we mean execution. Too often, planners are left out of the final stages of conception and creation. Traditionally, it has not been their remit. But times have changed, so this, too, must be addressed. Strategic influence on casting, user experience, wireframes, directors’ treatments, music… all of these things need planners involved. Working in pairs will help push this agenda because working in pairs will encourage you to interrogate work from every angle. 

Lastly, but crucially, it’s more fun to work together. Energy, chaos, optimism, passion… all of these things are important for big and brave ideas and only get amplified in company. Plus, you’ve got someone to stand next to at the summer party. 

Have we got it right? Who knows. That’s not the point. We’re trying something new because we believe it has the potential to make a big dif-ference. And attract the sort of planners who like collaborating and creating, and the sort of creatives who value strategic partnerships. 

Anna Vogt (pictured) is the head of planning at DLKW Lowe

The industry view

Richard Huntington, chief strategy officer, Saatchi & Saatchi

I’m a big fan of this initiative. We have often talked about pairing planners as a strategy community but no-one has taken the plunge and implemented a plan. 

For there is an inherent danger in the lone planner and that’s a form of unedifying dogmatism about their thinking that has long gone from creative departments. Planners left to noodle on their own without challenge or encouragement all too often believe the product of those lonesome hours with an A3 marker pad to be the only way of cracking a problem. 

I will watch this experiment with enthusiasm and interest.

So why not follow DLKW Lowe’s lead, then? Well, one very simple reason. Planners should have great relationships with other planners and they should absolutely open their work to the scrutiny and talent of others. But the primary relationship any planner should have is with their account handler. That’s the relationship to crack and that relationship (and we see it in the best of our start-ups) is the route to success for the planner, for the work and for the agency.

Work with the other planners, by all means, but form an unshakeable alliance with your suit.


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