Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My Plans to be a Planner

Stop me if you've seen this movie before.

And I wouldn't be surprised if you had, because this scenario plays out every day in every ad agency across the country, from the wickedly-inspired hallways of Weiden Kennedy in Portland to the anabolic steroid-laced hallways of Zimmerman Advertising in Fort Lauderdale.

A senior planner hands a Creative Director a meticulously-crafted planning brief.

He is peacock proud of the brief's brevity, insight and mapping potential towards marketing success. As the sacred document is passed from one professional to the next, a slight addendum is added.

"We need to show the client something in three days."

"Slow your roll," the Creative Directors responds, "How long have you been working on this brief?"

"About two months. We had initial research. Data Analysis. Loop backs. Deep dives. More research. Oh and then the CMO went to Machu Pichu. So really only 6 weeks," the planner replies, with not a hint of guilt.

The Creative Director, having just enrolled her kids in an expensive private school, bites her lip and tells her team to do the best they can.

And in three days time they do.

The work goes down to the client and in one of those meetings that can only happen in advertising, the Associate Chief Marketing Officer claims he never signed off on the initial brief.

He seizes the opportunity to do a little grandstanding of his own, because he just put a down payment on a Porsche Carerra, and instructs the agency to come back with work in a different direction.

His direction.

The senior planner, with all his various degrees in demographics, psychographics and social media metric confabulation, could push back and contest the point, but he and his wife just bought a new town home. And the formica counters in the kitchen need to be replaced with granite.

And so, the original precious planning brief, the one that incubated for 6 weeks and was pored over with loving care and undue attention, is tossed in the trash can in favor of a new brief. The one that was angrily ad-libbed by the ambitious Associate CMO who is eager to tell the world he has a small penis.

The cynical among you, that's almost all of you, might be thinking, why do we need Planning at all if the client is going to reject our council and write their own briefs based on nothing more than gut instinct and that morning's caffeine intake?

But as a seasoned ad veteran who has spent considerable time in the industry, I know that every problem is also an opportunity.

The silver lining in this case is I can extend my already lengthy career even longer by transitioning into the Planning Department. That's right, I'll become a Copywriter/Planner.

As a hybrid creative/strategist I'll be uniquely positioned to take advantage of the aforementioned scenario. And short circuit the all-too-familar strategic clusterfuck to my advantage.

For instance, I don't need 6 weeks to write a crappy brief. I can do it in three. Which leaves me ample time to work on my online chess game and perfect the Sicilian Gambit.

And crappy ads for my crappy brief?
Well, God knows I have plenty of practice writing those.

It's the perfect plan for a 44 year old.
Who knows, I might get another dozen years out of this industry.

1 comment:

Dave Trott said...

Rich, I had exactly this situation.
We won an account and agreed to go back to the client with work in 6 months.
It took planning 5 months to write the brief, so we had just a few weeks to do the work.
When we showed the client the work he said the brief was wrong, and we lost the account.
That's when I decided to put a proper traffic system in the agency.
We wouldn't work from the brief forward, we'd work from the presentation date backwards.
We'd divide the time up so that planning got a fair slice of the time to write a brief and performed to a deadline just like the creatives had to.
It ushered in the best decade in that agency's life.