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When Agency Planning Demands More

Campaign planners need to look beyond the more obvious who, why and what elements of their campaigns and solve the how, when and where, writes Aleesha Tully.

Do you ever feel nostalgic for the days where the height of your campaign planning concern was weighing up creative options for RTÉ 1 vs. its shiny younger brother, Network Two? As advertisers, life was simpler when we had less choice of comms medium, and fewer targeting options. Navigating the convergence of creative advertising and channel/media certainly wasn’t the great adventure it is today. However, as the majority of us have accepted over the last decade, times have changed. It’s been an adjustment for all disciplines, but for now, I’m going to talk about planners.


The demands of planning today are reflected in the multitude of job titles you see in agencies right now. Planner, brand planner, comms planner, strategist, channel planner, creative strategist, strategic planner, insights manager – all planning titles with certain nuances, but titles that also reflect the demands of modern marketing and advertising.

Today’s planner not only needs the skills to deliver the creative jumping off point, they need the expertise and experience to make the idea take flight. What good is a fantastic creative idea if it is delivered in the wrong medium, wrong format, or at the wrong time or to the wrong audience, or on a platform that offers a terrible customer experience (or worse, all of those?). What if the idea just doesn’t work with the technology that our client wishes to use? There are a number of different people who can plan to prevent these “what ifs” but engaging them all to plan for it would add a huge amount of complexity to the process. So, it should be the responsibility of the agency planner to ensure success, end to end.

“Today’s planner not only needs the skills to deliver the creative jumping off point, they need the expertise and experience to make the idea take flight.”

As planners, we can’t afford to just kick an idea out of the nest anymore. We have to make it fly too. To do this, we need more skills in our arsenal, as well as our agencies needing to adjust their internal (and external) processes. Along with consumer research, insights, and creative strategy development; having expertise in brand development, customer experience, digital strategy, media and channel planning is essential if you want your campaign to be a success.


A process where the planner is involved (and listened to) through the entirety of a project is vital. And channel planning skills, in particular, add immense value through all phases of the project. By keeping our channels in mind throughout the process, we avoid bumps (and U-turns) in the road later on, when it’s too late. Globally, agencies are adjusting their process to this way of working. There are a number of great minds who’ve hit the sweet spot. In the Irish market, it’s starting to catch on.


Adapting to this new way of working can be interesting, or dare I say – even a challenge for some – but immensely rewarding when you crack it. As a client and interagency (creative + media + PR) team working on a brief, it means constant communication, collaboration and transparency, in an environment that was often siloed before. It’s not a linear process of ‘create and deliver’. We now need the ability to cross over into the media space in order for the agency to provide the most effective creative outputs. If these abilities are lacking, you’ll end up with a reasonable amount of brain melt. For example, when you’re briefed to provide creative for dynamic display that has more iterations than attendees at a ‘How to be an influencer’ “summit”, or to create a global TTL campaign with multiple audience objectives (where we need to lean heavily on our friends in media to deliver effective targeting). So, what’s the rule of thumb for approaching the campaign planning of tomorrow? Think beyond the “who” “why” and “what”. Solve the “how” “when” and “where” and throw in a healthy dose of inter-agency collaboration. That’s how your campaign will really spread its wings.

Aleesha Tully is a senior strategist at TBWA\Dublin.

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ July/August 2018)© to order back issues please call 016611660

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