The Warc Blog

The Warc Blog

Planning: Wake Up Time
Waqar Riaz, Cheil Worldwide
Waqar Riaz

I feel like thinking planning, which agencies usually find pretty interesting for selling their creative stuff. They consider it as a ‘thing’ to shut their client up, and make them sell their ideas easily and consistently.  Unfortunately, this attitude of agencies has put limitations on the role of planning – and the sad part is, that even our expectations from it are limited.  Jon steel, Planning Director for WPP, in one of his papers published on WARC mentioned, ‘“So what exactly do you do?” I recently asked the same question of the planning director of one of America's most famous creative agencies. (I knew the agency's founder had a deep, unflinching loathing of account planning and research.) He told me it was his job to “look cool, be smart, and hang out with the creative department”’.  How sad would it be for people like Lever, Jobs, and King to hear this definition of Planning.

"Planning  is  beyond  supporting  creative sales – it must encourage growth in the total business environment".

I remember sharing in the earlier posts , ‘planning has no limits’. I also remember discussing the lives and businesses of great planners or Grand Strategists i.e. Lever, Jobs, King, Pollitt, Serge, Imoteph, Clausewitz. of course the following were very obvious in all that;
 -  They never restricted their thinking.
 - They never confused their thoughts between left and right sides of their brains.
 - Their thinking was totally integrated with their actions and imaginations.

I believe that unless we integrate our thinking into our agency’s and client’s ‘total business’, it’s hard for us to see planning that can last for decades and centuries, and can actually bring value for everyone.
It is important for brands as well as agencies to consider planning as a central point for all of their business activities. Instead of having dozens of communications partners – strategic planning must come from a single point, whether the brand is facing an issue in ATL, BTL, product penetration, packaging, production, retailing, digital or whatever. It is also very important to differentiate the role of Grand Strategist from that of a Management Consultant. The management consultants only show the directions, but Grand Strategists must excel themselves to set directions and implement and execute solutions.

For brands and agencies in order to reach from point A to point B of their business lifecycle, they need integrated individuals (Grand Strategists) – who can think solutions and create experiences with an unbiased approach to the given challenge.

For us as planners, the journey to ‘Grand Strategist’ is an ongoing and continuous process. It is vital that we never stop challenging what has never been challenged before. We have to become more effective by understanding all the different touch points between any business and its audience whilst developing specialisation in determining and identifying the opportunities for all. Figure below illustrates the area of opportunities for a Grand Strategist.

grand strategist.jpg

Brands and agencies, in order to truly benefit from Planning need to consider it as the starting point for all of their business movements.  This approach puts planners at the top of the thinking process with a pool of solution resources available to them use when, where and how the businesses need them. 

The best way to make sense of the ‘Grand Strategist’ thinking is to imagine the role of an Architect. An Architect has no technical skills in sewerage control, electrical wiring, fixtures and fittings, making of pillars and other things that are needed in the construction of any building. Nevertheless, it’s impossible for labourers, electricians, engineers to do anything without the instructions from Architect.  What an Architect needs in order to be the master in his subject is the knowledge of everything that connects with his subject whilst being able to specialise in designing architecture.  Similarly, the job of a ‘Grand Strategist’ is to design solutions whilst using the resource pool for the execution of the recommended strategies.

The challenging role of the Grand Strategist demands a new working structure within advertising agencies. However, if brands and agencies don’t change the way they think, then it would be like the tale of five people, who all were the perfect drivers on planet earth. One fine day,  they received an invitation to a motoring exhibition. They all decided to use one car to reach the destination. However, once they made themselves comfortable inside the vehicle, they all wanted to show off their knowledge of driving.

After a long and heated debate on who should drive the car, they all decided to split the driving between them. So it was decided;

The senior of them all took the steering wheel,


the second to the senior controlled the accelerator,


the third to the senior took charge of the brake pedals,


the fourth to the senior was made responsible for keeping eyes on the road,


and the fifth to the senior started to control the indicators.


Sadly, it took them ages to get to where they wanted to and the worst of all they never made to their destination, as none of them could understand what the other was shouting. Finally, on a turning sharp and steep they all ended up driving down from a cliff thousands of feet high – and that’s how they all disappeared with a ‘CAR’ strong and magnificent.

It wasn’t their driving skills that got them killed and the car destroyed. Instead, it was the car designed for one driver not five. They lacked a single mind, able to take responsibility for all the procedures and techniques to drive the vehicle from Point A to Point B.

Subjects: Advertising, Marketing, Brands

18 April 2010 22:41

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