Saturday, April 25, 2009

Can Planners Be The New Creatives?

Recently, I watched Can Planners Be The New Creatives? from a past PSFK conference. At this conference planners, creative directors and others from the industry discuss what the role of the planner actually is and what it has seemed to morph into within different types of agency models. After watching this, it really got me thinking about what the role of the planner is, traditionally.

Last term I had the opportunity to work with Merry Baskin from Baskin Shark in London. Merry spent a week with us, guest lecturing classes and also provided us a research/planning workshop with team presentations, complete with a hefty, but necessary grilling at the end.

One big take away from Merry was that the role of a planner was never meant to be a coordinator or an account person, but to be creative, nimble and to serve as an aide to the creative team. Simply put, planners are helpers, or as Jessica Greenwood puts it, "just a creative with no ego."

Merry taught us that the role of a planner is to set out to research, develop strategy and to test creative messages amongst audiences to ensure that the meaning resonates correctly and to infuse this information into the creative team to help produce the best work possible. Merry's greatest advice was that we must think differently about qualitative research. That we must set out to be truth tellers and not to shift results in the favor of our campaigns.

Ask better questions.

Merry also told us her favorite moments or times when she felt most successful were when creatives would come to her first for advice on their work and ideas, before the creative director. Flow Heiss, creative director of Dare explains that "there are no planners at Dare, because they are all creatives." He then goes on to say that everyone must be creative and answers that he thinks planners won't be the new creative, but that they could be the new creative director. This makes a lot of sense to me, only it seems that planners should work side by side with the creative director, as a two person team.

As a student, it is inevitable that I am still very green when it comes to any real kind of agency experience and I have a lot of information and advice to seek out. After Merry's visit and a great recommendation from planner Paul Isakson, I have begun to do some reading from the ad industry's past:

1. A Master Class In Brand Planning: The Timeless Works of Stephen King

2. The Book of Gossage

As Paul recommended, we are often stuck in the now, trying to reinvent the wheel and what we really need to do is just step back and get in touch with our own history- that that is exactly what A Master Class In Brand Planning sets out to do as well. I have only just begun both of these books, but I can already tell they will be invaluable to me by the time I finish.

Here at UO we have become fond of the term creative strategist. What this means is that everyone is creative, everyone is strategic and above all, everyone collaborates. We're moving away from the traditional writer/art director mold and pushing for innovation. I would consider myself a strategic planner, disguised as a creative. I like the idea of pushing the creative brief and actually making it more creative. I like the idea of not caring who did what, but getting it done and making sure it goes beyond our expectations. I like the idea of curiosity and what happens when you step outside of your own bubble. I love the idea of the creative strategist and I hope agencies are beginning to as well. As far as I can tell from the PSFK conference, they are.

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