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We’re all planners now, aren’t we?

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These days it seems like everyone is eager to put their planners’ hat on.

While any great planner will welcome such enthusiasm with open arms, what shouldn’t be forgotten is why they are good at their job in the first place.

We all know a good creative brief requires that golden nugget of insight. But how do you get to that point and who is best placed to find it?

It all comes down to a certain mindset. Planners want to question things. They look at things differently. ‘What if…’ is one of the best ways to approach any client brief, and for good reason. Because it keeps opening doors. Keeps you exploring avenues that might lead to new information. Which in turn, leads to more insights.

The reality is, some people just don’t think that way. They may think they do, but they don’t.

As planners, we should always be striving to find something that no one else has thought of.

Now, in an ideal world, clients should work with a building full of people who understand this process and embrace it with both hands. They may even question things themselves. That’s even better. Creatives, account people, strategists, new business teams,we’re all wired differently. And this is a great thing. Because we think differently. And we ask different kinds of questions.

Sometimes creatives ask the kind of difficult questions that make everyone else in the room groan. Or account teams ask the questions that no one else feels like they should. And good on them.

Because those are the questions that lead to somewhere different.

Now that we understand why a planner’s mind is so valuable, let’s take it back a notch. Where do planners start when the client comes to us with a brief?

First you need a definite understanding of what’s involved. Clearly identified commercial objectives, target audience and a shared view of the role for communication and what you hope the work will achieve. Ideally, this should be established in a face to face meeting, because if this information isn’t readily available, the planner has the experience and depth of knowledge to extract this from the client.

Next, you go in very wide in the initial phase of development and deliberately force yourself to look at a problem from several different angles. This is a crucial step that needs to happen before you can even begin to filter your ideas. Competitor analysis, industry reviews, focus groups, it all helps you start to paint a picture.

Preparation. That’s the key. If you don’t spend time doing this, the final output could be all wrong. Think of it like this. The market and target audience are your arrows. The creative is the target. If your planning and insights are way off, you won’t have a chance of hitting it at all.

The challenge of course, for any agency, is to convince the client that there is value in the planning process. That we aren’t just yes people. We delve deeper into their commercial problem to retrieve more information, more observations. And that there’s a certain level of detail required to do that.

If planning is done well, clients want more of it. Because it adds value. It leads to better creative work. And because if they only wanted a delivery agency, wouldn’t they just choose to work with one?

Here at JJ, we like to deliver work for our clients that is not only strategic, but creative and accountable too. For us, that’s the key to a happy marriage between client and agency. The planning process is the first step towards understanding the audience and finding that nugget of insight, so the creatives have the best chance of nailing the problem. And better creative work means more sales and profit for the client. Which is, of course, the end game for us all.

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