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Bridging the creative-planner divide

News, 05 August 2016

CANNES: Agency planners and creatives have drifted apart, but better education and a greater focus on insight-driven briefs can help bridge the divide.

A workshop session at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, organised by Tom Morton, senior vice president for strategy at digital agency network R/GA, and Sam Saunders, ECD at Taylor Global, laid bare the divisions between agency teams. (For more, read Warc's exclusive report: Why planners and creatives drifted apart - and how agencies can bring them together.) 

The two interviewed a total of 98 planners and creatives to get an idea of the scale of the problem. It found that creatives are seen by planners as "challenging" – "cool" "neurotic", "gifted" and "sensitive". But creatives tended to think that planners are "wannabe creatives", who introduce complications.

For Morton, better, insight-driven briefs are key to solving the problem. "As we've moved from a proposition model to an engagement planning model, we've forgotten that the insight is still central," he said. "In the survey, all the creative directors were telling us, 'give us human truths, tell us what we didn't know before about the brand'. As a planner, if you want to fix the relationship, become an insight hunter. Hit the road and find things out that people didn't know before."

Saunders agreed, adding that, for a creative, "an insight is pure gold" – and that "we need healthy respect for the other person who creates the brief". He added: "The brief is one page. We need to realise that that page can take two months to put together."

Other planners interviewed by Warc in Cannes offered their own advice on bridging the planner/creative divide. Eric Zuncic, CSO of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, suggested that both teams should work together, and planners in particular should be flexible about some of the traditional divisions in job roles.

"Just talk to each other, be more valuable, and be more open," he said. "It's obviously a case-by-case situation. But I think, generally, strategists should forget the kind of preciousness we criticise creatives for! Don't be precious."

The need for better communications was also stressed by Mike Rumble, CSO at Cossette Media. "Strategists and creatives are some of the most stubborn people in the business. But they need to listen to each other," he said. And both should be prepared to "take what you've got, throw it away, and start over when you need to".

Maria Urbina, head of planning at MullenLowe SSP3 in Colombia, brought a small agency perspective and the need to respecting roles. "Advertising an idea is about creatives, account people, planning, clients," she said. "If you see great work, it's because the client's into it; the planner's into it and everybody is doing his job, but with the same direction."

But, while the divide can be narrowed, it may never be bridged entirely. Morton pointed out that planners and creatives have been separate since the planning discipline was invented by Stanley Pollitt.

"He said that you could never have complete harmony. You could only have 'managed friction'."

Data sourced from Warc