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What is the Future of Planning?

Where is planning going? This was the question that the APG posed on Tuesday 6th March to three planning luminaries- Adam Morgan, Richard Huntington and Cameron Saunders. Hailing from the worlds of consultancy, business and the heart of a creative agency respectively, their perspectives on what planning is doing right, what it’s doing wrong, and where it’s headed were eagerly received by a packed audience at the Wellcome Collection.

You can watch the videos here.

First up was Adam Morgan. He took us back to the very beginning of planning at BMP and JWT, where once we were the people who were at the centre of the “Bigger Conversation” about brands. But now, others, like management consultancies, are taking that role, releasing marketing reports that CMOs are listening to. Planning had ambitions to be central to the bigger game, but now our actions (or lack thereof) suggest otherwise.

Morgan had two suggestions- that we either accept our role as one that is instrumental, but not central, to the game- afterall, the advertising industry is going from strength to strength with planning’s current contribution- or we put ourselves at the centre of the bigger game. To do that, planning needs to change its tune- to go from thinking about communications problems to business problems; to go from being apostles of the new to being the best strategic problem solvers available to the client; to establish authority within the CMO community, and to invest in planning as the R&D arm of the advertising agency.

Thought-provoking words. Next up was Cameron Saunders, a former planner who has gone “client side”, first at Channel 4 and now at 20th Century Fox. He treated the audience with the story of his move from planning into business, and what valuable lessons he has taken from planning into business.

For Cameron, planning and business share three key things:

  • great business leaders and great planners are great storytellers, and use stories to engage, coach, galvanise and inspire great work

  • great business leaders and great planners identify key insights and fresh perspectives that cut through complexity and indecision and provide a sense of shared direction and purpose – the “why” that characterise great businesses and brands

  • great business leaders and great planners given unique perspective – are able to see the world through the eyes of others – in particular through the eyes of customers, and use that ability to transformative effect

Most pertinently, Cameron advised the audience to focus on understanding the client as much as understanding the “consumer” – they’re just as illogical, interesting and baffling as one another.

Finally, we heard from Richard Huntington, Director of Strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi. His energetic, engaging presentation had the audience enthralled, and reminded them of the unique value of planning- to generate transformational, revelatory creative ideas. We need to get back to the task of solving real business problems and coming up with revolutionary thinking. He finished with the inspiring words, and an invitation to planners everywhere- “the future of planning is what you make it”.

Sarah Newman

APG Director

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