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It’s a very un-British thing to say/do, but I think I’m quite good at what I do.
Sure, I’m no superstar, but all in all, I think I can hold my own.
OK, so when you’ve been doing this planning lark for as long as I have – and with people and agencies that I have – you’d hope some of their brilliance and experiences has rubbed off on you … however that aside, I think I’m OK at what I do.
I say this because I’m getting more and more alarmed at what is going on with this industry.
I’m seeing more and more people being given massive planning titles without – as far as I am aware – any formal experience, let alone training.
Sure, at it’s heart, planning is pretty easy.
If you have empathy and a bit of curiosity you’re half way there.
OK, so you also have to be able to take that and find a way to turn it into commercially creative inspiration … however it’s certainly not as complicated as many like to claim and I can easily understand how people from different backgrounds and industries can come into it and be awesome.
And of course there are those annoying bastards who are just brilliant at it from the get-go.
I’ve worked – and work – with a few of those and you know they were just born to do it. Or at least born to understand how to do it.
But back to my point.
Even though planning is not the hardest job in the World and there are people out there who just have an unnatural ability to do it … the amount of people who have come in to the discipline from nothing and are planning heads in a mere matter of months is alarming.
Maybe it’s me.
Maybe I’m not good at what I do.
Maybe I’m totally and utterly deluding myself … after all, it’s taken me over 20 years to get where I am – whereas these other bastards are hitting the heights with only a year or so of experience.
And some of them are going into the industry brand new. I don’t just mean adland … I mean working.
Yes … in a matter of 12-18 months, there are people who are going into a job and being the head of the department in the time it takes most of us to decide what phone we are going to buy.
As I said, I know there are some exceptional people out there – people who scare me with their sheer brilliance – but not all these ‘planning heads’ fit that description, at least not from the outset.
Maybe if they were producing interesting work I’d feel less pissed about this.
Something that changed how people think or a brand behaves.
But most of the time, they can’t … because most of the time, they haven’t done anything.
To be fair, it’s not their fault.
Seriously, it’s not.
If someone offered me a massive payrise and a fancy title, I’d definitely consider it.
The real issue is that companies are willing to do this.
Companies are willing to put people in positions they are no where near ready for, so that they can claim to their clients they have people in those roles and they can charge them more in their monthly retainer.
Which means 5 things:
1/ If they’re so willing to have a department in their organisation run by someone who has no experience in that discipline, let alone running a department – then companies don’t actually value what planning can do for them and their clients.
2/ Companies are happier giving a payrise and/or a title than actually training and nurturing their staff.
3/ Our industry continues to devalue our relevance, value and importance to business and society … not to mention filling the marketplace with people who are are wrongly ‘labelled’ or ignorant [and arrogant] to what their true abilities are.
4/ Clients will become lazier – hiring agencies more on fee than ability. In essence, making us more like an up-market temp agency than an ad agency.
5/ Everyone ends up losing out – some in the short term, everyone in the long.
Being the head of a department is – or should be – more than just a title and a pay rate.
You should be directing the approach of the department.
You should be contributing to the vision of the agency.
You should be leading the charge for the people and brands you represent and live amongst.
Which is why if I was a client and I wanted to be sure the strategists I was entrusting with my business were worthy of being entrusted with my business, I’d start by asking the head of the department one simple question:
“What is your experience?”
What a shame so many clients just don’t seem to care.
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