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    From the Gaping Void

    Food for thought

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    May 09, 2005


    alex w.

    client planning. good idea or heresy? i personally applaud coke's initiative. not as a threat to account planning, but as an attempt to become a better client. both in terms of providing better briefs, and also to have a central (and unbiased) function to, um, integrate communication plans.

    imho planners on the client side can only elevate the stature of the craft, not dilute it, or, even worse, compete with it. it should be seen as a compliment. especially since coke seems to have made good hires.

    the threat to planning lies elsewhere: in the craft's continued 'start with tv' mentality, outdated research techniques, a leadership void behind the initial generation of planning superstars, and a general reluctance to fully embrace how communication works today.


    Agree with what you have to say. The big issue is that we, as planners, have to raise our game. Getting good practitioners client side will help, but there may be pain as it exposes some of the weaker agency departments/people.
    And the leadership void is an excellent point - I'm shocked by the rise of the 'gonzo' (read creative wannabe) planner, and the lack (with a few notable exceptions - Mark Earls, Rusell Davies, Richard Huntington) of fresh, contrarian thought leadership. The discipline is scarily comfortable in its complacency.


    Gareth, that's very kind of you. (Though I'd have put myself firmly in the Gonzo camp).

    I can only really ramble 'around' this subject, not really 'about' it, because I don't really know what I think. But here are some thoughts:

    1. Do you remember when agencies would say they were 'guardians of the brand' and their clients would let them? I always felt that was quite odd. People should be guardians of their own brand. I guess when you're a huge multinational with hundreds of brands its acceptable to just outsource responsibility. But not any more. And if that's the case, why wouldn't you try and get as much strategic thinking inside your business as possible.

    2. This is allied to that nonsense about agencies always wanting to be their clients partners. That's not going to happen and it shouldn't. Agencies should instead strive to be very well-paid and respected suppliers. That's an honourable and valuable thing to be.

    3, The problem with having planning inside a client is the lack of variety. The best planners drag thinking from one category, one type of business to another. If you spend your whole life thinking about soda you'll eventually run out of ideas.

    4. Some planners are better at doing upstream stuff, some at downstream. There shouldn't be a rule that one is 'better planning' and one isn't. And let's face it good execution is often more useful than good strategy, so let's not all run away from the downstream stuff.

    5. The lack of a new generation of planning role models is, I think, partly to do with a lack of advertising role models as a whole. Who'd you really look up to at the moment? Agencies no longer have a monopoly on interesting brand thing; they're struggling to find something interesting to say. Look at all the recent succesful start-ups in the UK. They're all agencies that do great service, OK thinking and average creative work. Then they get to a certain size and sell-out. They're not in it for imaginative new thought.

    Oh, I'm making no sense at all. I'll try again another time.

    Pete Gagliardi

    Client side planning will expose the weaker planners with in agencies. That's not a bad thing, unless the client's planner is weaker and has ego/security issues.

    A lot of what this comes down to in my opinion is you're going to have 5% of planners that are really good, 1% who are excellent, a large percentage that are mediocre, and the remaining who suck. Leadership, in terms of great planners to look up too, is not as important as is the agency leadership. It's that leadership that determines how long the leash is and what ideas are executed.

    Exposing weakness is a good thing because it forces change. Let the weak go away, let the great be recognized, and let the competition over business determine the success of a dept., a role, a function and so on.

    After all, the best ad people I know have cross disciplinary skills. However, if functions overlap too much things get muttled and become ineffective. Thus, specific roles are necessary.

    A focus on peoples emotional connections to things is what I would be looking at. Not being the gaurdian of a brand.

    Ed Cotton

    Coke had planners in house 8 years ago.

    I don't believe having planners inside clients is that bad a thing. If they are advocates of strategy and smart thinking- that's cool by me.

    If it challenges me, nothing wrong with that. Believe it or not, it might be possible to form a great partnership.

    One thing that's true about planning and creative these days, is that it's less about ego and much more about collaboration.

    I think territory can easily be mapped out and both client planner and agency planner can define exactly what they are going to contribute.

    There is something about location that will naturally mean the client planner is closer and more involved in brand, and the agency planner is more intimate with communication development.

    It's this element that can 't be replaced and it's up to agency planners to justify their existence in this space.

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