The Ugly and Dirty Planning of BBDO

“Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth”

Julian Cole
May 2, 2017 · 2 min read
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At BBDO New York we practice an ugly and dirty type of planning — a street brawler more than a chess master. Purist strategists are horrified to see the ‘thinking time’ allotted to strategy and the lack of strategy slides in our presentations. Planning not as an academic pursuit but a discipline in service of the best creative output.

Still, the time pressure being applied by clients on the creative process has forced planners to evolve. Some strategists have found coverage for their art by swimming upstream, joining their management consultant allies who see their work as the final output, getting deep in client organizations and further away from the creative output.

But the time crunch has also developed another breed of planner — someone who is ready to take some hits and get thrown into some hard conversations. The street fighter.

The ‘happy to go wherever tough decisions are being made about the work’ type. They are the one’s swimming downstream into the belly of the beast of the creative process. Into the pressure cooker occupied with rabid time constrained creatives, where you have to provide value fast or you’ll get chewed out. Changing course and thinking fast and thriving in the carnage that is the making of ‘the work, the work, the work’.

The crunch has changed the type of planner I am. I’ve learned to adapt or shed some baggage to stay in the ring. I chucked out consumer journeys for comms frameworks. Consumer journeys were great client fodder but rarely changed the final output. Scrapping the client recommendation presentation on behavioral economics, advertising effectiveness or the latest digital trends and baking it straight into the work.

I got involved in the production of the work. Creating blueprints that forced clients to align on a carve up of production dollars before creative briefs. Taking a reductionist attitude to some work helped strip out all the unnecessary details to briefs and presentations that take up time. I found ways to elbow my way into the creative process before the official creative check ins. Rolling my sleeves up and getting in the mud with the creatives, finding ways to help.

The street fighter planner is very different from brand planning forefather Stephen King’s original version of the lone genius planner who went off into a corner and crafted the amazing insight.

The street fighter gave up a little control of the planning process in order to get some skin in the creative process.

Trading blue sky thinking at the start of the process for the dark clouds of budget and time realities of the creation process. This is where planning can offer the most value making sure smart thinking stays on track when the going gets tough.

Comms Planning

Sharing strategic knowledge through collective experience.

Julian Cole

Written by

Runs Planning Dirty, ex-Head of Comms Planning BBDO & BBH, teaches Strategy at Skillshare, Co-Founder of @PlanningSalon, bleeds Parra Eels/Essendon/NY Jets

Comms Planning

Sharing strategic knowledge through collective experience.

Julian Cole

Written by

Runs Planning Dirty, ex-Head of Comms Planning BBDO & BBH, teaches Strategy at Skillshare, Co-Founder of @PlanningSalon, bleeds Parra Eels/Essendon/NY Jets

Comms Planning

Sharing strategic knowledge through collective experience.

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