Like most of you, I’m sure, I’ve spent the past few months having numerous virtual cuppas with very talented people who, through no fault of their own, have lost their job, to see if there was anything I could do to help.
It was during one of these chats that I came to the realisation that it’s time we reframed the opportunity for planning – that brilliant, creative, challenging discipline that underpins our industry and that has been central to my own roles across media and creative agencies, and now at Snap.
It has made me think that it’s time to release planning and planners from the conventions of adland.
The conversation that sparked this was with an incredibly bright young planner who was looking for guidance on her next move. She was super-sharp and ambitious and, during our conversation, I asked the simple question: “If you could pick anywhere to work, where would it be?”
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that her answer was one of our industry’s biggest, brightest creative agencies. No shame there; they’re places we all love for their amazing work and culture. And it’s an ambition shared by most planners I talk to, especially as they look for their second or third role.
But we’re living in different times and this requires different thinking. Not just for those looking to apply their skills to where they can do most good, but for every company navigating their way in our post-Covid world.
Because the core skills of a planner have never been more in need by business in general.
The problem is that a planner’s skills are often still woefully misunderstood. Great advertising, the advertising that can build brands and drive businesses, is built on creativity and craft, and the foundation for this is great planning. The type of planning that leads to business-shifting work, such as the recent Uncommon Creative Studio campaign for B&Q that moved the brand in a whole new direction by focusing on emotional connections with consumers.
There is an old adage that account people hold the client relationship and the creatives hold the relationship with the idea, but what often gets forgotten is that it is the planner who holds the relationship with the people.
This skillset is universal and relevant in so many places outside its traditional advertising heartland. At a time when businesses need to understand people and behaviour better than ever, to be able to grow, to connect and to thrive as brands, it feels like there is an opportunity for us all. As more businesses build out internal creative teams – 57% of all multinationals, according to the World Federation of Advertisers – there should be questions being asked about who can help these teams ask the right questions.
Companies of all shapes and sizes need to think more about how they can start to behave differently. That includes us – and this is why we’re currently looking for Snap’s first planner.
Our decision to recruit came from our own recognition that we need to help brands understand the behaviour change that enables augmented reality at scale, the role of our platform and the audience engagement that we see. As every good planner knows, attention is becoming increasingly diverse and therefore people who ask the right questions and understand context and behaviour are invaluable.
The impact of having such planning thinking embedded with brands, rather than solely held within their TV or media agency, could be transformational in terms of the levels of business-driving insights that could be generated.
As the level of data-driven insight companies have access to increases, a planner’s mindset of extrapolating the behavioural story behind the insights and determining the next steps to take will be essential.
The opportunity to influence products and propositions to unlock potential is where the real potential of a planner’s thinking lies.
It has never been more important to have people who can help change how we look at the world. We need to reframe our approach to planning to go beyond how it can drive campaigns to how it can help refocus a company’s entire business.
And, if you’re a planner looking to take your next step or trying to find a way back into the industry, maybe it’s time to train your skills on yourself.
To take the provocative stance that’s an inherent trait in all great planners and apply it to your own situation.
Ask yourself the big questions, such as: where else can I help? Use your skills to change your own trajectory, your own journey. Just like your thinking and planning craft changed the trajectory of the brands you’ve worked for.
Like all good planning, this is all about the research.
Ask yourself where your skills could be of benefit, be that helping marketing teams client side guide their briefs and propositions. Or at a start-up helping it to define its purpose. At big tech companies helping to understand the role they can play in people’s lives. There are few companies that wouldn’t benefit from a planner’s unique ability to identify the potential new and unthought-of route for their business.
Do your research as you would for a client brief. You are the brief. So invest time identifying where you want to work and why. Identify the right people to talk to and keep discovering the why.
As soon as you do, you’ll be incredibly surprised by the breadth of companies that need and will appreciate the timeless power of a planner to be able to get people to think: "Oh, I hadn't thought of that."
The world needs more people who are brave enough to ask the right questions and smart enough to understand what the answers mean.
And that’s you, planners.
David Norris is European head of creative strategy at Snap