Ten Books Every Comms Planner Needs to Read

For any aspiring Comms Planner looking to gain expertise in the field of advertising, here are ten essential books that will give you a good grasp on how advertising works and how they can help make an impact on the creative process.


1. Long and Short Of It — Peter Field and Les Binet

This actually isn’t a book but a report. It forms the backbone of the importance of creativity in the advertising process. Using the data from 996 campaigns entered in the IPA Creative Effectiveness Awards, Binet and Field make a compelling case on the role of media, creativity, emotion, short/long term focus, and fame in achieving advertising effectiveness. They have also come out with an update this year which suggests that short term impact is having a bigger impact.

2. How Brands Grow — Byron Sharp

Sharp brings academic rigour and data to the advertising world and helps dispel a number of myths around advertising. Some of his key highlights are the importance of advertising to everyone in the category vs. specific target, crushing of the concept of loyalty programs and the importance of creating distinctive assets.

3. Truth, Lies and Advertising — Jon Steel

The bible for brand planning. Jon Steel is an amazing storyteller who helps teach the raw skills with great examples that help land his points. An important read for anyone who is getting into the planning discipline.

4. Decoded — Phil Barden

Daniel Kahneman’s iconic book, Thinking Fast and Slow, opened the world up to how the brain actually makes decisions and created a new field of research in behavioral economics. In Decoded, Phil Barden shows how this applies directly to marketing, he covers all the major theories and shows how they impact package design, brand choice and the consumer journey with clear examples.

5. Buyology — Martin Lindstrom

A great follow up read to Decoded, Lindstrom takes behavioral economics thinking and applies it to advertising using a mix of his own primary research and secondary examples that helps bolster this book.

6. The Advertising Effect — Adam Ferrier

Adam Ferrier is a consumer psychologist and my first boss. In his book ‘Advertising Effect’, he takes forward the thinking around behavioral economics and puts forward a model for planning on how you can incorporate a lot of the thinking of behavioral economics into a campaign.

7. Seducing the Subconscious — Robert Heath

Having a strong knowledge of System 1 & System 2 thinking is necessary to jump into Heath’s great book. After a career in advertising, Heath has gone back to academia to work out how advertising actually works, putting some great ground work into explaining low attention processing.

8. Anatomy of a Humbug — Paul Feldwick

Advising clients on how we measure creative is a fundamentally important role for a comms planner. Paul Feldwick helps outline where the current measurement techniques originate from. As he explains, in a lot of cases, the tools are not backed in rigour and do not reflect the current communication environment.

9. Space Race: The Story of Comms Planning Jim Taylor

As Anatomy of a Humbug outlines where advertising measurement comes from Jim Taylor outlines the beginning of Comms Planning as a discipline. It is an interesting read for how it all began and Taylor’s predictions from 10 years ago about where the discipline might head are fascinating.

10. Journal of Advertising, Advertising Research and Marketing

The chasm between academia and practice has always been frightening. While Byron Sharp has done a wonderful job at bringing the two worlds together, more needs to be done from the current practitioners side of thing to stay up to date. These three journals consistently produce great articles with a high level of rigour behind the findings.

Passing it forward

Passing the knowledge forward, I would love to hear what others see as essential reads. So Richard Shotton, Tom Morton, Colleen Leddy and Byron Sharp you guys are up next for top ten essential reads for planners.