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The rise of the agency over-planner

The New Year, as always, brings us many trend predictions. As I read through them all, I wonder if everyone is trying too hard – and in ways that are becoming far too complex, in reaching consumers. So I thought I would have a go at constructing my very own trend prediction for 2016 – the rise of what I’ve called the Agency Over-Planner.

So how do you spot these curious creatures? The simple test is this – are you being presented with a rigid plan with very specific details and a set timeline outlining exactly when every bullet-pointed item on the plan will take place and how well it will do?

We know the world of communications is getting more and more complex – and like in our personal lives, the more complex things become, the more we need to manage our anxiety around this complexity. We tend to do this by putting in place a ‘plan’ – a plan that often creates a false sense of security. This strategy also applies to the way many planners tackle the complex world of communications planning.

Planners become determined to exert control over what in reality, is an impossibly complex world – one which requires understanding and flexibility, not control – in the same way you might navigate a river’s rapids. Over-Planners can mistakenly create rigid and tight picture-perfect media ecosystems and plans in an attempt to gain some control over how brands navigate a complex consumer world. By doing this they try to instill confidence in the client, however, in reality this is a false hope.

Here are four sure fire ways to avoid becoming an Over-Planner:
1. Clients require planners that have the maturity (experience not age) to be open and honest about the fact that, as planners, we only have limited control over this landscape. We are dealing with people, and although we can look to previous behaviours/data to assume future actions ultimately people are by nature unpredictable.

2. Question the rigidity of your thinking when planning a communications strategy. We have to shift the mindset away from needing everything to flow in the right order and by a certain rigid time frame, to creating a flexible framework.

3. Unlock business success with a more agile mentality, so that although we have to be goal orientated we cannot be goal obsessed.

4. Allow room for ‘unknowns’ that generally do happen all the time, and certainly will anytime you are dealing with real people in a real world

If we are too focussed on planning and the future, we often neglect the most critical thing: what is happening around us now and how can we be more agile as agencies and marketers to adapt and act in real time.

Ben Cunnington

Ben Cunnington is Regional Strategic Director at Vizeum APAC.
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