Friday, December 18, 2009

Advertising: Planners becoming account servicing.

In most agencies and recent times, and no one can deny this fact, more and more account servicing people are migrating into planning. One is because of the better pay. Two is because of the sterling image that comes with the title 'Strat Planner' compared to 'AE/M/D/etc'. Third because it's dubbed 'The Brain' in the agency. Bullsh*t.

There are very steady account management people whom I've met who don't need the title 'Planner' to be a planner. And they are usually heads of the accounts and teams and make up a minority of the advertising population. Due to this huge deficit of planners in the industry, headhunters scout for researchers and AEs and AMs and install them as planners in prospective agencies.

Some made it, some never did.

Since I'm not yet very good at planning myself and management recognized that I'd need a lot of help, we've been hiring planners since... day one. I've been surprised, irritated but mostly amused by a stream of account servicing people who came to 'suss' us out and compare us with the other wonderful offers the other wonderful agencies are offering, since planners are a rare species. They claim to have 'passion' in planning therefore they are out of the 'servicing' box and should be given the position. Basically what they are telling us is they didn't want to do what account servicing does - namely budgeting, client management and executing projects. Instead they want to be the 'brain'. Bullsh*t.

Strategic planning is something you grow into, not a title which you hold.

Since our hiring strategy didn't work very well, we made both our planners and account servicing do budgeting, client management and execution on top of researching, planning and tracking. We make them plan big brand stuff, we make them plan executable campaign stuff. We make them give out leaflets in roadshows, we make them present in front of client management. We make them scam creative ads, we make them design proposals. We make them interview consumers, we make them create sense out of analytics. We make them drink with the client, we make them challenge them. We make them think brand strategies, we make them create an activation plan. We make them work independently, we make them dependent on the team. We make them planners, we make them creators. We make them doers, we make them thinkers.

So what happened after this short little experiment? Turnover rate of the team dropped tremendously, more business from the client, more synergy in all of our campaigns, more respect from and for creative and vendors and last but not least more ownership on the projects.
So instead of hiring account servicing people to be planners. We are hiring planners to be in account servicing. We can all put something on paper and if there's no one who could sell it to the client, then there will be no you. No me.

You think it, you sell it, you make it happen. Period.

Four types of planners in Sparks' world.

*'Syiok sendiri' is Malay, direct translation = 'self pleasure'.


  1. Hire planners only then to do everything that accoutn servicing does.. no need for account servicing anymore. I'm sure you guys can do a much better job than them right?

  2. Hmmm. I don't know. Really. Don't know if planners know how to close and bill...

    I think what will make an ideal agency: Copywriter, Art Director, Strategic Planner and Communication Producer.

    That's all. Happy family.