The lessons media planners should learn from creatives
The craft of planning is under threat, writes Mindshare's Emily Scovell - but there's something we can do to save it
The advertising industry is in a state of flux and with more pressure on media planners than ever, the craft of planning is at risk. In this regard, media agencies could do well to learn a lesson or two from their creative counterparts, who have done a better job at safeguarding their planners’ precious time.
Whether it’s unexpected client demands, new ways of working, the unsolved mysteries of measurement, or simply keeping up with emerging technology, every day brings with it new challenges and requires constant evolution to keep up.
For media planners, this means that in the last few years our job description may have lengthened a little – or a lot. No longer tasked with simply developing media strategies and plans to deliver value for clients, our remit can run the gamut from project management, to maintaining client relationships.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, one could argue that it would be hard to be a good planner and impossible to be a great one without being able to call on these skills when needed. At the very least, it means we are in charge of selling in creativity and ideas ourselves and experience the reward of seeing a brief through to delivery.
However, when we call on these additional skills too often, are we actually sacrificing our core craft?
The core craft of planning is hard to define and, arguably, endless.
It’s working through a brief to define the business challenge and desired outcomes. It’s building audience insights and finding a place in their lives through the right principles, channels and tactics for application. It’s taking the technological capabilities at our fingertips and designing meaningful connections through channels and customer journeys.
Most importantly, the craft is about innovative media ideas that explode and take advantage of great creative platforms, bringing to life disruptive ways to gain cut-through.
This is where the emphasis should be placed in a planner’s role. However, as the media landscape has become more complex, and we’ve tried to embrace new skills, technologies and faster ways of working, the emphasis on the craft of planning is being lost. With that loss comes consequences to both the quality of work, and to driving effective business results for clients.
Lessons to be learnt
So, what can we learn from our creative peers? As a rule, creative agencies have done a much better job of keeping their planning teams removed from anything outside their core job description, and therefore held in the highest esteem by both the industry and clients alike.
This is, in part, because creative agencies have built their brands on being undeniably visible. After all, when creative work is done well it’s often the first thing clients see, and the last thing they forget. In contrast, media can sometimes find itself playing the role of the indeterminate “back-end” – clients know it’s important, but its power can often lie in subtle details, as opposed to show-stopping moments.
Safeguarding our craft
This isn’t a call-to-action to return to the days when all media planners did was planning in its purest form; the other skills we’ve acquired are necessary and do, in turn, make us more connected and accountable. However, it is a call to consider and action the following three recommendations:
- Ring-fence proper planning time. Don’t sacrifice this for speedy turnarounds, agile ways of working or giving media partners and buyers the lion's share of time on a brief
- Work with clients to identify the right questions, using data and technology to power the whole craft of planning as well as in-campaign
- Place the value and emphasis on craft that it deserves. Ensure clients, agencies and planners alike recognise when they are in the planning stage, and when they have moved onto implementation and project management.
At a time when the industry is in near-constant flux, and agencies – media or otherwise – are increasingly judged on tangible results, safeguarding our craft is imperative if we want to continue to add value for clients, and create work we can be proud of.
Emily Scovell is Joint Head of Planning, Mindshare UK