The Need For More Planners in Experiential Marketing: Why experiential agencies need to start using the left sides of their brains.

Account Planners are often called the 'left side of a creative brain'. In that (to use a massive psychological generalisation) agencies engage the logical 'left side' of their brains through effectively utilising their planning departments.

Account Planners are often called the ‘left side of a creative brain’. In that (to use a massive psychological generalisation) agencies engage the logical ‘left side’ of their brains through effectively utilising their planning departments.

Planners exist within marketing agencies to ensure that they find truisms within consumer’s minds and behaviours that allows creative work to be as relevant as possible. In plain English that means identifying insights that can then feed the creative teams.

Planners have been a permanent feature of advertising agencies for over 25 years. The function has spread through to below the line agencies and to be quite honest any agency worth its billable hours.

So the big question is why have experiential agencies still not caught onto this?

First a brief history of planning…

Beginning in 1965, Stanley Pollitt felt that account managers were using information incompetently because the researcher was not involved in the campaign process. Because of this, Pollitt suggested that a specially trained researcher should work with the account manager as an equal partner.

Stephen King then moved the concept on slightly, believing that clients deserved a better way of doing things and proposed a process of advertising development that had a little less gut feeling and a little more scientific foundation. In 1968, J.Walter Thompson (JWT) established a new department called “account planning”, coined by King.

Ok history lesson over. In short, account planning exists for the sole purpose of creating campaigns that truly connect with consumers.

Surely that is the objective of every-single piece of experiential activity that is put out? So by definition there is absolutely no reason why this function is not being worked into the DNA of more experiential agencies.

Some may argue that the industry is too small and clients budgets are nowhere near those of their older far wealthier advertising relatives. Some may also argue that Senior Account Handlers and founders form this role and that there simply aren’t planners around who understand the discipline.

Both could be true however, if the experiential industry really wants to compete for clients budgets and ultimately create measurable campaigns that truly impact consumers behaviour. Then agencies better start using the left side of their brains and hire planners into their teams.

I dream of a world where experiential agencies lead the creative and strategic thinking on the majority of pitches rather than the minority. We are constantly talking about the need for a greater level of ROI in experiential and neither of these things will be achieved until planners are a permanent feature within experiential agencies.

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Posted by

Phil Edelston