WHAT THREE SKILLS SHOULD A GOOD PLANNER POSSESS?
Passion – To be a good planner you’ve got to be endlessly curious, and to be endlessly curious requires (in my opinion!) a certain level of energy and excitement that in my experience has always been driven by my passion. Passion to learn, passion to find the interesting hook in a seemingly boring brief, passion to make good work, passion to get to the truth of a brand, campaign or idea.
Inflexible Flexibility – A planner has to be an unwavering voice in a room. You’ve got to be able to be the voice of the consumer in the face of a fantastic-but-not-quite-right idea. You’ve got to be the defender of great creative when an idea goes off-brief in the right way. You’ve got to be able to pivot quickly and gracefully when situations change, and be able to stubbornly stand firm when necessary. At the end of it, I suppose, is having confidence in yourself to find the right answer.
Honesty – I think that good planners tell good stories about the truths of brands to the people that want to hear them. Really good work comes from a truth about the brand, an authentic understanding of the market, and a really solid knowledge of what the consumer wants and needs. Considering how oversaturated we are with advertising right now, we want to make work that honestly will be relevant or meaningful to our audience, not just something that sounds or looks cool but is utterly made up.
WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PERFECT AGENCY (IF YOU COULD CREATE IT FROM SCRATCH)?
Truly integrated – in work and approach. Planners and accounts getting involved alongside the creatives in ideation. Work would be approached by tackling the entire customer journey, and then identifying the most relevant or meaningful touchpoints for our audience, rather than confining ourselves to a medium before we’ve found the message. A really friendly, sociable atmosphere - having a team that really gets on and has fun together makes such a difference to not just the feel of the agency but quality of work produced! An open culture that’s interested in bringing in talks and talent from outside the industry, encouraging us to look outside our bubble and find ideas in the world outside advertising.
Also, stickers. A friend of mine works at a startup where they leave stickers on each others’ desks or laptops if they’ve done a good job that week, and because I’m six years old with a washi-tape problem, that really appeals to me!
IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I would love to be able to go to the shoots/production days sometimes. It would be so exciting to see a brief coming to life!
Of all time?
Spike Jonze and Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s ‘Lamp’.
It’s pitched perfectly for Ikea’s audience, it’s different and memorable, it’s on-the-nose for the quirky and self-aware tone of voice of Ikea at the time - and at the end of the day, it never fails to make me laugh.
I also love the story (which I hope is true!) that a crewmember took the lamp home and when the agency asked for it back, they got a note back saying ‘See? You’ve fallen for it. You’ve grown attached to the lamp, and you are crazy.’
More recently, I’ve been really impressed with how Gimlet Media handle their ad breaks, particularly within the first season for their podcast Reply All. It’s such a simple idea – for a show that’s all about meeting, interviewing and uncovering interesting stories about people and the internet, for their ad breaks showcasing Squarespace, the hosts found interesting websites built on Squarespace and interviewed their creators. It’s simple, subtle, sells Squarespace in an authentic way, and I think is a great example of good content marketing.
DID YOU HAVE ANY OTHER JOBS BEFORE COMING INTO PLANNING?
Whilst so far my only job has been advertising (other than a fantastic stint at Waterstones whilst at university), my journey into Planning is somewhat unusual. I applied to study History, decided to take a gap year and do an Art Foundation course. I then went off to study Philosophy & Politics, becoming a very passionate Model-United-Nations-er and getting heavily involved in theatre marketing. I then decided to go back to art, doing a Master’s in Visual Arts in London. I applied for a number of creative internships – and at the interview for one, it was suggested that perhaps I wasn’t a creative, but a Planner. Not knowing InDesign at the time, my first day was spent in the Planning department while the Creative Director was thinking of a task for me – and the rest is history! I still (try!) to keep up with my painting and design work in my spare time – and I’ve found having and understanding of and passion for how creative is made has been really helpful.
And teaching myself InDesign has been invaluable when it comes to making death by PowerPoint meetings a little more aesthetically pleasing!
WHAT BOOKS HAVE INSPIRED YOU?
Louise Windo from last year’s Planners Unmasked already mentioned Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which I studied at university and led me down a rabbit hole to an ever-growing collection of books on perception, phenomenology and existentialism which have influenced how I think we experience the world (and so how we should understand people and create better advertising).
David Mitchell’s (not the comedian) Ghostwritten – it’s not academic, but it’s had a big impact on me. It’s beautifully written and a great example of metafiction. And then, this is cheating a little bit, but I have a monograph from Peter Doig’s Tate retrospective in 2008 which was incredible. He’s my favourite artist; the way he uses colour and paint is really inspiring.