What is a Comms Planner vs. a Media Planner vs. a Brand Planner vs. a Digital Strategist?


When I begin to work with a new team, I’ve found it useful to provide the definition of a comms planner and explain just what I’m doing there. Since Comms Planning is a relatively new role in an advertising agency compared to, say, a Copywriter, it’s a useful starting point.

Here, I’ve listed how Comms Planning is different from other “planner” types that you find around an advertising or media agency. And at the bottom, you can see how BBDO talks about the different planners.

Who is Who At An Agency?

Comms Planner

A comms planner provides strategic rigor to the implementation of the idea, ensuring integration of the work between creative and media. Their key outputs include messaging frameworks, comms tasks, tactical briefs, and ecosystems.

Previously (and less frequently) known as Engagement Planners, Channel Planners, or Connections Planners.

Brand Planner

Also called “Account Planner” or in some smaller advertising agencies, simply the “Planner” or “Strategist.” Confusing, no?

The Brand Planner is considered the “voice of the consumer” in the creative process. They figure out what messages need to be communicated to reach target consumers in the right way, with the right message. To do this, they consumer research and trends to write creative briefs and evaluate work.

Media Planners

Called “Comms Planners” in some media agencies.

Within a media agency, media planners calculate how to best and most efficiently reach target consumers. They do consumer media research similar to an agency’s comms planner and use this research to develop a media plan and a tactical channel plan.

Digital Strategist/ Social Strategist/ Digital Guru….

May just be called “Strategist” especially at digital or social agencies.

From my experience, these roles vary the most from agency to agency. Generally, these people have a deep knowledge in a specific field such as social media, search strategy, website strategy, etc. They use these precise skills to develop digital or social solutions to a brand’s problems. In addition, they think about how to optimize each piece of creative for the channel similar to a Comms Planner.

How Do Comms Planners and Media Planners Compare? How do they Overlap?

Here is a simple Venn Diagram that outlines how BBDO Comms Planning compares to our counterparts at a media agency.

How Do We Keep The Planners Straight?

In summary, we’ve found at BBDO that a simple way to talk about the different types of planners is to think of the Who, What, When, How, and Where of communications.

Brand Planners focus on “who” we’re talking to and “what” we’re saying.
Comms Planners gives us “how” the idea shows up and also “when.”
Media Planners tell us “where” the idea shows up in media.

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