Developing your own planning style


The author at leisure musing on whether the title of this post is a tautology or an oxymoron

A little while ago I gave a talk to an IPA course for planners called developing your own planning style.

As part of this I asked a few of my favourite planners how they would describe their planning style and so I thought I'd share that part of the presentation. Clearly the slides make no real sense without me banging on while they are up on the screen. So invite me round to add the banging on live or simply imagine it.

My heartfelt thanks to Malcolm White (Krow), Guy Murphy (JWT), Neil Goodlad (CHI), David Bain (BMB), Charlie Snow (DLKW) and Giles Hedger (Leo Burnett).

Now what would be really nice is if you described your own planning style for future presentations. "Its called sharing" as my three year old says.


SAS Planning. Get in. Get out.

OK I'm kidding a little as it was really parachute planning that I came up with while freelancing around the world or paying extradition bills.

It always felt like I got dropped into the front lines and had to learn everything yesterday. Which has it's uses. But really I just want to be a pipe smoker and talk about the meaning of meaning and get creatives excited.

Posted by: Charles at July 8, 2009 01:36 AM

"Make your limitation your selling point"

I'd like to hear more about that. Do you have any examples?

Posted by: Camiel at July 8, 2009 08:48 AM

Two things I learned from Mr Mead and Mr Vickers: "the objectivity of ignorance": always write down what you think instinctively before you start getting into the research / data / etc. because that's often where you'll find the idea later, and (b) never be afraid to ask a stupid question, because the questions that nobody is asking are often the ones that most need answering. I guess you could call it Columbo planning ...

Posted by: Jonathan Wakeham at July 8, 2009 09:24 AM

Sex Pistols Planning

Or more acceptable being Paul Arden-esque planning. usually everything sounds the same, looks the same and has come from the same people. Break rules, piss people off, zap rather than zig n zag. It's not always appropriate because sometimes clients don't want to be noticed but just get by nicely. Therein lies the lack of comprehension that risk is inherent in any creative venture.

Posted by: Tony at July 8, 2009 04:04 PM

Make your limitation your selling point came from the Head of Planning at Saatchi & Saatchi, Martin Smith.

I guess its really about making sure that you are working on the business that values what you are good at at an agency that you are good at by telegraphing what you are good and bad at.

Because one's career as a planner probably goes in three parts>

Part 1) gaining your craft skills. this is when you have to make sure that you are passable at al the planning skills from data analysis to presentation.

Part 2) making your name. this is when you get to understand your own planning style and because you are in the right place on the right business your career explodes.

Part 3) running the show. When you kinda have to be good at everything again because you look after all the agency's business and though you can be selective in who gets your efforts you still have to talk a good game across the piece.

Posted by: Richard at July 8, 2009 08:15 PM

My presentation on 'what's this Creative Strategy thing all about' is here...

Posted by: Katie Chatfield at July 9, 2009 01:21 AM

Im still a young padawan planner (actually, a designer pretending to be a planner). Im not realy sure i've got my style 100% defined yet, but I guess that depending on the situation I go with one of these:

Mr Winston Wolf Planning Style: (this is my favorite option on many levels)

Zombie ninja pirate planning style: the goal is to take things to the highest awesomeness level possible.

Information & ideas DJ: be in the know, remix stuff and make something new.

Posted by: fabio at July 9, 2009 01:04 PM

That "limitation being your selling point" bit is good advice. I used to use the example of Sumo wrestlers never being good ballet dancers. Over here Stateside, there is so much guff about all your strengths and successes in life. Little on limitations.

Posted by: Gordon at July 10, 2009 01:16 AM

Absolutely agree that good planning requires "style, not just substance."
Having substance is about having the capacity to identify the right thing to say.
Having style is about knowing how to say the right thing freshly, interestingly, poignantly.
Often, where product differences are parity, style becomes paramount.
Without style, our message would only be half a message.

Posted by: Bob at July 10, 2009 09:20 AM

Thanks for the extra explanation, Richard.

And Fabio, the thought of Winston Wolf being a planner somehow frightens me a bit.

Posted by: Camiel at July 12, 2009 11:19 PM

For me it's about making sure I read all these opinions from other planners, but just as equally making sure that I ignore what a few of them say.

It's essential to take information in, but it's key to ignore a lot of it too and build your own style.

A style that may be influenced from other planners, but should definitely be influenced from areas outside of planning.

Posted by: Mark Hadfield at July 13, 2009 09:31 AM

A bit wanky, but semantic planning.

Look at the words used in and around the category. Why are they there? What is inherent in those words that misses a trick? What do they naturally lead you to?

By fucking with the definitions, I find, you always get to a better place.

Posted by: Will at July 13, 2009 01:43 PM


Planners getting obsessed about how to dress up their pseudo intellectual incantations.
As if it matters to anyone apart from yourselves.

John Lowery was right

Posted by: howler at July 14, 2009 06:09 PM

"Go ahead, do something impossible"

What do we create as Account Planners?

We create moments when the rest of the world stops, because there is only one thing that matters: the promise of a mind blowing, maybe even life changing experience.

We create instant memories.

So go ahead, do something impossible...

Posted by: vassilis at July 14, 2009 09:51 PM

You reckon Howler is JL?

He's right thoughn, does smell a bit like polishing turds.

Posted by: jemster at July 20, 2009 10:30 AM

Couldn't resist this solipsistic game...

Could I lay claim to the "Bono" style of planning

By which I mean this....

Be arrogant (or ambitious) enough to think you (should) know more about everything than any one person. This involves an endless quest to learn and use new stuff and not becoming a specialist.

At the same timeā€¦.

Be humble (or lazy) enough to realise that everyone knows hugely more about one thing than you. This involves a lot of listening and co-opting their best ideas.

The style is hence a disturbing mixture of bumptious arrogance mixed with a genuine desire to help other people. Hence the Bono reference.

My wife thinks i just read lots of books and the client gets a strategic solution involving a spurious paralell with whatever I read last.

She may have a point.

Posted by: jon leach at July 22, 2009 03:56 PM