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February 07, 2012


Good stuff - I had a look but couldn't find, you don't happen to have a link to the article do you?

Hi Andrew, thanks for the post. I somehow believe that it seems that clients expect the agency strategic planners to solve strategic business problem instead of strategic communication problem. Based on personal experience, I believe this problem originates from clients who are too lazy or stupid to do their own homework and expect their agency planners to solve that for them.

I think planners are well placed to tackle business issues, but if we are to do that we need to be involved early rather than being given a brief at the end of the process. Of course we can't fix a business issue if we only know about it at the end.

Sorry to use a football metaphor, but just because you are a defender doesn't mean you can't score goals like a striker; but to get the best you have to use them right and let them work together.

Tom, there doesn't seem to be a digital version anywhere. I could scan and email if you like. Don't I can publish it here - copyright and all that
Tofan - you are a lucky man if that's the case. I wish I had more lazy clients like that. The 'big ones' tend to brief us after elaborate brand consultancy/Millward Brown histrionics while the small just want some ads/website etc. There is a minority, and I love them. Goes to show how different experiences lead to different views
Rob - I agree, but I think planners more and more are fining the need to earn their place in those upstream conversations. I'm just not sure if enought want to, so clients don't bother asking, or clients pigeonhole the 'ad people' 'digital people' or whatever. The latter is much of my experience with the bigger companies

I think it's better with smaller clients who appreciate the added value, whereas big clients feel the need to 'brand consult' everything.

I think in some cases too, the client fears that getting the agency involved in business will make them look bad... "Why are you getting the creative people involved in our sales plan Jim?!"

Having worked both sides, I think agency people need to be careful what they wish for - the water is not necessarily more desirable 'upstream'.

Yep good point, I'd love to know what you think the main differences are and how it's helped you doing what you do now.
That aside, I'm not suggesting upstream means getting the nitty gritty of product management etc, I guess I mean proper conversation about what what what problem we're supposed to be solving, rather than 'increase brand familiarity'
Having collaborated recently with a couple of brand managers on their marketing plans, I was more than a little impatient to get to the comms planning

I think despite not having the 'real business' experience it's pretty good to be aware of things. It's a bit weird for clients to say people in agencies should have MBAs but I can see how it would be disheartening for a client to meet a planner or account manager who has no interest in how they operate as a business.

It's probably not MBAs that they want, it sounds more like a desperate cry for empathy. Empathy breeds curiosity about how things work: the company, the industry, the larger competitive environment etc. and it still allows you to get on with comms planning rather than dwell on fixing business problems or having to identify them. So perhaps it's good to 'be aware of' and reassure people you are and just say so at the beginning of a relationship, before it's too late and you're pigeonholed. It may well be a case of an honest 'I've been trying to understand you more and I have a few questions' (before we move on to what I'm really interested in - comms planning). The answer will probably say a lot. But I don't think anyone will shoot you for being interested in their company & its broader business environment. If it's passive aggressive and you get pigeonholed, it's sad. But who knows.

Having said that I went to a business school so we were fed these things on a daily basis - and it's hard to know what other planners don't know and why clients don't like them, like your article might suggest.

But don't we all feel a little helpless when hiring a plumber or similar who's working in an area we know nothing about. Are we about to be taken for a ride or worse?

On that basis, I'd argue that everyone would be better off with a level of numeracy, some knowledge of economics and parts of an MBA curriculum. But that's all stuff that needs to be layered over something more human - the possession of an MBA isn't a rubber stamp of commercial expertise. Though mine obviously is.

I agree but as you say, the level of numeracy, MBA modules is 'some' not 'all'.

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