There has been lots of talks lately about where do we need planners anymore (such as this, in Finnish marketing daily).
I (as a planner) believe that there is at least these four major responsibilities for planner. And (of course) I believe that there will an role and even increasing one for the planners in the future.
Why we need planners?
1. Challenge the brief.
A good planner is a devil´s advocate. He is on the quest to find the truth and not to make friends. He knows the client business upside down, he know client´s customers even better than the client itself, he knows the trends and he knows the experiences from the other industries. That is why brief is not set in the stone, but it is a challenge for the planner. You have to research it thoroughly and look for the plotholes. Planner does not necessarily have to have all the answers, but he sure has to be able to ask the right questions:
– Is this really the problem?
– Are we targeting the right audience?
– Is the media mix right for the audience?
2. Translate business to creativity.
Some clients are able to come up with good briefs. Most are not. If the brief is understandable, compact and actionable there is no need for creative brief. Creatives can start working from the actual brief.
However, if the brief is not adequate, the planner has to translate it to the creativity. Usually this means that the planner has to find the essential single-minded goal from tens or hundreds of slides. He has to concentrate on the essential and concretize the business goals and go deeper than just the superficial market research data.
Some of the questions you have to tackle:
– What is the brand personality?
– What is our target audience?
– How do we want the audience to feel?
– How do we want the audience to behave and react?
– How does the brand personality and target audience interact?
3. Balance the creative process.
The real work starts from the creative brief. In the most succesful cases I have been part of, the planner has been an integral part of the creative team.
The role is two-folded. Planner has to ensure that the right question is being answered. However, he has to also push to creative envelope in collaboration with creative director. Without magnificient creative leap, you are only dealing with illustrated strategy. And planner with average conceptual skills can come with that. Everyone has to add value in the creative process.
Other reason why it is crucial to be closely in collaboration with creatives is that you might realize that your first hypothesis is wrong. One offshoot might open a totally new strategic path and you have to be adapt to react on that. As I have said, you can live with incomplete creative brief but not with incomplete creative product.
Some of the questions you have to be asking around the office:
– Is this really answering our question?
– Can you push it further?
– Would I share this?
– Would I talk about it?
4. Lead the internal strategy as well.
This is something that often is forgotten. Planner has to think about the strategy inside as well. This boils down to that the planner has to be able to grow the existing business and land on new business as well. Planner who is not able to do that is just a theorist or poor man´s social anthropologist, not a real strategist.
– How do we sell good quality creative for this client?
– How do we expand this client?
– What is the optimal team for this client?
These are the tasks planner is still needed. Does the person need the title planner? Probably not. There has to be a strong planning function in the agency, not necessarily a planning department.