Derwin Myers, Strategic Planner, Folk Wunderman Thompson
Derwin Myers, Strategic Planner, Folk Wunderman Thompson

What is a Planner?

Planners are a crossbreed of researcher and advertiser. They help inform the overall strategic positioning and direction of clients. Information aggregators, they are constantly consuming data in a bid to make more sense of the world.

Planners wear many hats are most often understood to be the ‘fill-the-gaps’ person when it comes to understanding or opinion.

At any point in time, they can be found:

  • Interrogating/writing briefs
  • Uncovering the highly elusive insight
  • Agreeing business/marketing/communications objectives
  • Designing and/or conducting research
  • Collaborating with the creative department
  • Establishing pre/during/post campaign analysis to establish the effectiveness
"If you can’t turn yourself into your customer, you probably shouldn’t be in the ad-writing business" – Leo Burnett
"If you can’t turn yourself into your customer, you probably shouldn’t be in the ad-writing business" – Leo Burnett

If account management is understood to be the voice of the client and creative is the voice of the idea, planners are the voice of the consumer. Understanding people, their world, what shapes it, what they value, prioritise, how they feel in relation to different things is key to being a planner.

I have found planners (some not all) to be big empaths: comfortable placing themselves in someone else’s shoes and considering a perspective outside their own in a bid to understand something better.

In a creative agency, one of the most essential tasks a planner will complete is the writing of the creative brief. A distillation/interpretation of all the relevant information the planner has come across, the creative brief is the bedrock of the creative process. The planner must deliver the most relevant, interesting, and stimulating information to the creatives and generally in the fewest number of words possible. This document will also feature the coveted insight and proposition from the planner. Planners must be brief, interesting and inspiring when writing a creative brief/briefing the creative team.

In my experience, some of the best planners are great:
In my experience, some of the best planners are great:

- Storytellers

- Problem Setters

- Debaters

- Explorers

- People Watchers

- Contrarian Thinkers

- Information Distillers

- Writers

Daily Role of a Planner:
Daily Role of a Planner:

Every day is different for a planner however certain tasks persist on a daily/weekly basis. Research is imperative to the role so you could find me doing my own desk research: trend reports, client decks, industry publications, online research, attending webinars/online events. Primary research: liaising with recruiters for consumer research, designing/writing/facilitating consumer research, debriefing research.

At Folk Wunderman Thompson, we are interested in understanding the trends that inform and shape Irish culture. One tool that helps us do that is an internal series called Culture Jam where we invite a guest from outside the realm of marketing/advertising to sit down with us to discuss a topic or subject area that provides a different perspective on Irish culture and helps us look outside the ad-land bubble if only for a moment. In facilitating the series, you will generally find me researching, contacting and interviewing the guests of Culture Jam.

You will generally find planners on a daily basis writing/thinking attempting to solve or establish a work around. A brainstorming session with other planners may be on the agenda to crack a problem or gather some opinions OR it could be as a sounding board to check a strategy that is in situ. Depending on the stage of a project, you will find planners chatting to creatives – making themselves available to answer any questions the creative team may have and to help ideate with the team.

Planners are client facing and will generally be engaged in the early stages of a client contact. As such, on a daily basis planners can be found in client meetings discussing objectives/ambitions, presenting strategic or research outputs or supporting creative presentations. Alternatively planners may facilitate a client session to brainstorm some ideas, present relevant industry/product information, thought leadership or a client workshop.

The last thing we do on a daily basis is our timesheets. All planners complete timesheets. Everyday. We definitely do.

Derwin Myers
Derwin Myers
Strategic Planner, Folk Wunderman Thompson