Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mum, where do senior planners come from?

I hope I'm not destroying anybody's innocence here, but senior planners do not arrive in a basket, delivered by the stork to the doorstep of each agency once every three years.

You wouldn't think that's a particular revelatory piece of information, but for an industry that loves to bring in low paid account handling graduates we do an alarmingly bad job at hiring young planners (the same is also true for media strategists).

The first time I ever learnt about planning was at a graduate account handling recruitment day at Grey in London. In fact to this day I still don't know the name of the person who told me about it, I think he may have been called James, but I met a lot of people that day! Either way, thanks 'James!

'James' said I seemed like I would make a good planer and should consider that as a career. I said thanks, and asked him when the graduate planning recruitment was. "Oh there isn't one." was his reply.

When people (non-planners) ask why I started in planning so late, I explained that in three years of looking I did not find a single junior planning job to apply for. I had to find my way in by getting to know as many people as possible, and by getting known (hence this blog). In fact, even the first planning job I applied for, which I got, technically didn't exist, and was created because the agency liked me.

The problem is partly that clients don't want to pay for junior planners or strategists, perhaps because planning/strategy implies a seniority and level of experience. Yet we have plenty of account execs and junior creatives - they report to the senior team and all is well. So why do people expect senior planners to just appear out of nowhere?

I used to think that W+K London's policy of hiring planners from other industries and careers was simply a quirky way of getting unusual people into the department - but actually, it was probably just a way of side-stepping the problem that very few people ever seem to be hiring junior planners.

If we don't nurture planning talent properly, we will damage the future for all of us. We need young, hungry planners to keep pushing us to do our jobs better than ever before. If no one currently wants to pay for them, we need to find ways to help them add value.

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