How to Be a Better Advertising Planner

Be a better advertising plannerAt Source we are always seeking to give an insight from the industry’s leading players on what they think enables earnest professionals to rapidly develop their careers or enhance their skills. To that end, we asked a seasoned industry planning guru their professional view on the best ways to get into planning or how to become a better planner. Planning jobs are amongst the most interesting advertising agency jobs, but are keenly fought over! So what can you do to enhance your opportunity for career progression?

Kindly, Mark Hadfield of Nexus H has penned his view for us all.


Spurred on by this tweet, I thought I’d jot down a few things that I think are good pointers to either
a) getting into planning or
b) becoming a better planner.

All of them involve going ‘One Step Beyond’.
And in keeping with the music metaphor, I’ve offered 7 opinions – one for every inch of vinyl.

1) One Step Beyond experiencing

It’s imperative for all of us that we know what’s going on in the industry and that we have a decent grasp of who is saying what, and when and why they’re saying it.
But don’t just experience activity and watch ads. Watch other people as they experience them. You see, it’s one thing to see what’s going on, but it’s quite another observing how that thing impacts on society. So next time you go past a billboard, don’t just look at it, look at others looking at it. Next time you see a trend on Twitter, don’t just look at the thing people are sharing, look at the profiles of the people sharing it.

2) One Step Beyond admiration

We all see work that we think is really good. It might be great strategically, great creatively, or present in all the best media channels. But if you’re trying to get into Planning or just looking to develop a new client, you need to do more than admire other people’s work. If you see work that you think is good, reflect on how you could make it better and let the relevant people know.
If you want to work for that agency, find some of their work and show them how you’d make it better – creatively or strategically. If you want to work with that brand, find some of their activity and show them how you’d like to improve it.

3) One Step Beyond reading

As this post exemplifies, we’re not backwards in coming forwards as an industry. We’re all chomping at the bit to share our opinion – be it on blogs or in traditional media. Well, if you see a viewpoint you agree or disagree with, pen a response with your reasoning why. Even if you don’t send it, this is a great exercise that helps you build up skills of forming arguments and using evidence to support your case. We’re in an age where we can find and converse with people across the globe instantly. The internet has truly democratised communications between people, and whether they like it or not, you can probably find the email address of the person you want to share your opinion with.

4) One Step Beyond geography

As I just touched on, everything around us is instant and accessible. That means we can talk with people, learn from people, and challenge people wherever they are on earth. I find that reality truly exciting. I can engage with the press anywhere on earth, and respond to the relevant person instantly. And that doesn’t just apply to email. It could be chatting face to face on Skype, sharing images on Instagram or by having a public conversation on a blog. Bored of reading the same old stuff? Pick a country and look at their press, look at what’s going on in their world and learn something new.

5) One Step Beyond brands

A good client knows their brand inside out. But the benefit of employing a good planner is that they either know the brand even more intimately or they can provide essential objectivity. You see, I think a lot of clients inevitably become Brand Blind.[1]They spend about twelve hours a day, six days a week inside their brand; surrounded and consumed by it. Consequently, they notice it more in daily life, they talk about it, and they know and understand the machinations which drive it internally. Well, unfortunately for them, most people on earth have either never heard of their brand or don’t give a sh*t about it. In my mind, a good Planner should provide objectivity and should think beyond the brand itself to the ‘where’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of that brand in society as a whole; in daily life, in culture. Don’t think outwards from the brand, think outwards from society.

6) One Step Beyond silos

Traditional agency models are broken. Modern agency models are broken.
The world is moving so quick that the success of any business model is dictated by its inherent flexibility. Mr Perkin would call this agility.
Within any system or model there are silos. They might be explicit or implicit, but they are there. Traditionally the planner’s silo do market research, then inspire the creatives to come up with that all-important big idea. But I think these traditional role boundaries should be flexible. If you’re writing propositions intended to inspire creative ideas, surely you could be developing some of your own creative ideas yourself. If you’ve got an idea you want to sell to a client, start planting the seeds with the account team so they can lay the foundations with the client for you. Don’t just sit in the planning department; have your head in other departments too.

7) One Step Beyond work

Planning doesn’t stop at 6pm, and it certainly doesn’t stop in the office. Planning is a way of life, a way of living and a way of viweing the world. In my mind, anything you espouse in the office should be carried into your private life too.
The cliché of being interested and interesting, unfortunately is true. (I just hate clichés OK?)
So for me it’s all about travel, writing and exploring. I always want to learn more. I always want to do things I haven’t done before. I always want to be excited about a place, a thing, an experience. I want to travel every inch of this beautiful world of ours. I want to get every thought in my head on paper, either in words, in charts, or in pictures. I want to explore everything from music to film; from food to beer; from people to isolation. It’s all out there, and we can touch it whenever we want.

To misquote Samuel Johnson, “When a Planner is tired of going One Step Beyond, he is tired of life.”

Mark Hadfield
Head of Strategy

Mark offers a viewpoint of thinking beyond perceived limits and opening your mind, as well as looking to break down traditional stereotypes. We hope you like the post and welcome your comments. Or even better, if you have an opinion about getting into planning or how to be a better planner’, perhaps you’d consider guest blogging for us!? 

[1] Naomi Klein