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Planners need time to think

News, 18 October 2016

LONDON: The speed of change in the advertising industry has brought many practical challenges, but one aspect that is frequently overlooked is "the luxury of thinking", according to Miles Young.

The former global chairman and chief executive at Ogilvy & Mather, who recently left the business after 34 years, observed that the industry had been "on the back foot for a few decades" – in part because people no longer have "the time and leisure to think, to initiate, to prognosticate – and to do so outside of a required reaction to a given brief".

Writing in Campaign, Young argued that "thinking" needs to be restored to a position of primacy within agencies. "To me, this is inextricably linked to a total relaunch of account planning," he said.

By this, Young said he meant that planning has lost sight of its original focus, with many "planners" now being more properly described as "creative development or excellence catalysts".

As envisaged by the discipline's founders, Stanley Pollitt and Stephen King, planning was built on a sense of the importance of effectiveness and, said Young, it now needs to be put back into thinking about business. "We need to re-establish our relationship with chief executives," he stated.

Using a military metaphor, Young suggested that, while the industry was good at hand-to-hand combat, it had "forgotten how to provide air cover".

That means addressing big issues such as the role of business in society or the value of branding.

It also requires moving beyond just considering shopper behaviour and customer response in order to understand the world of influence and the nature of customer relationships while at the same time "marrying these to the techniques of enquiry and the discipline of measurement".

While remaining enthusiastic about planning, Young observed ruefully that the discipline remains largely a UK phenomenon.

"Most global agencies have planning, but for few is it central to their mission," he said. There is, he added, "a serious absence of real planning in the US and an excessive reliance on UK imports to fill the top jobs".

Data sourced from Campaign; additional content by Warc staff