Oyster beds at dawn. It is the grit inside the oyster that creates the pearl. Image courtesy of thepres6.
A mentor of mine once told me that there are only two types of planners in the world – nice planners and nasty planners. He maintained that by far the best kind were the nasty planners.
By nasty he didn’t mean that they committed acts of unspeakable cruelty to puppies or beat the living daylights out of old ladies for kicks. He meant that really good planners should be appropriately surly and uncompromising when the need arises, especially in fighting for better advertising. In other words nasty planners get in the way when the work is not right.
This is because the planner’s ultimate job is to ensure that the work works. This may seem obvious to you but it’s not necessarily getting through to planner-kind judging from the comments on a post I recently wrote for my website. A remarkable number of planners seemed utterly appalled that I had tarnished them with the primary responsibility for effectiveness.
Indeed I genuinely think that many planners now feel that their job is, to use a ghastly phrase beloved of the headhunting community, ‘the third member of the creative team’. They believe that they exist in order to contribute to the creative quality of the work not its efficacy. At the same time many of our media agency partners feel that creative agencies have planners simply to justify their recommendations to sceptical clients, that we have become little more than proof poodles.
The moment that we lose sight of our basic role to ensure effectiveness is the moment we concede that planners have no separate and defined role within the agency and we all descend into a homogeneous mush of creative generalism. If that’s the case then fine but lets abandon the idea of planning and hire more creatives.
And don’t imagine that this is just about creating clear blue water between planners and creative teams it is just as much about maintaining a professional distance between planning and account handling. In particular ensuring that the agency’s own self interest and the day to day harmony of the client relationship don’t get in the way of the work delivering a result either.
After all an effectiveness culture is not one in which the agency makes the work, crosses their collective fingers and if all goes wins an IPA award. An effectiveness culture is one in which the planning discipline are obsessed with making work successful and actively intervene at every stage of the process to ensure that it is, whether this is palatable or not.
In my experience standing up for the right work especially towards the end of the process when everyone else just wants to get the thing out there, takes a bit of backbone. And the right kind of nasty streak.
This post was orignially published in the 10th August edition of Campaign magazine.