What is account planning anyways?
An intern’s attempt to validate her career path.
Coming from a family of engineers and science professionals, I was primed from birth to carry on the tradition of STEM careers.
“Surely little Amelia will make a fine geophysicist and eternalize the Enberg name in future science textbooks!” — an assumed utterance from my parents
But, to their initial dismay, I was attracted to the ever-changing world of advertising — where people, brands, and ideas collide together. I wanted to work in a creative atmosphere but still use the scientific and analytic skills I had been ingrained with. It was a leap of faith to break the mold, but I did find that happy place where my left and right brain could work together simultaneously: as a planner.
Account planning is this hidden gem of an agency role — a lot of times, we’re relatively unrecognized. There were no planners in Mad Men, and none of my highly experienced professors at Roosevelt University really mentioned it as a career option. Our most notable contribution to the process is the creative brief, where research supports the insights which hopefully spark some amazing creative ideas. But we are also constantly learning about the newest trends, ideas, and technology that may be useful down the road for a new client, pitch, or assignment.
It’s a process of knowing a little about a lot of things, but then also knowing a lot about a few things — and somehow not getting confused by it all.
At Trisect, I’ve been able to work and assist on a variety of projects and clients while learning how to be a planner. Just when I think that I’m getting it, I’m always learning something new: how to think faster and clearer, work more efficiently and collaboratively, and balance multiple deadlines and demands.
And have some fun too by way of ping pong, beach volleyball, Chicago-style slow pitch, and a boat party. (Work hard, play hard — ya know?)
Along the way, I’ve noticed a trend in what my strengths are and what I see in my fellow planners. Although they come in all shapes and sizes, here are a few traits which seem to ring true.
Planner Personality Test
Do any of these sound like you? Maybe you’re meant to be a planner!
1. You never stop learning
Or asking why
By channeling your inner 3-year-old and asking all the questions, do you drive people nuts with your insatiable quest for knowledge? Or perhaps you love to read interesting topics like fly fishing, theoretical physics, or underwater basket weaving?
If you challenge the way things are done, inquire what drives our behaviors, and explore things that don’t make sense, then that will help in being a planner. There’s a reason behind everything: why we prefer certain brands, our daily habits, or how we think. Once you unlock the secret, there lies the magical insights.
2. You have the vision
But are able to see things in the short-term, too
Do you see visions of sugarplum fairies at night? Then you should probably get that checked out. It’s really about being able to see how things may play out and strategically choosing the best option. You’re a thinker.
Switching between the long-term and short-term — and understanding their relationship with each other — is a major planner skill. While we may be fascinated by a shiny creative idea, it’s the planner’s job to think if that idea makes sense in the context and will be effective strategically. After all, there are business objectives to be met and clients to appease.
3. You can distil the complex
Into its most essential form
Are you the friend that is able to explain the plot lines of thriller movies like Shutter Island and Inception? Can you sort out the most pertinent information just from scanning?
Working with vast amounts of data and research means that it can get pretty messy — all the information starts blurring together. But when you’re communicating with clients and creative, it needs to be as simple as possible. They only want to know what is most relevant to their work, so a planner should be able to pull essential details and insights for a digestible document or deck. All the heavy thinking is behind the scenes; upfront, it should look simple and streamlined.
4. You consider different perspectives
And find ways to harmonize them
Do you consider yourself a collaborator? Is there really no “I” in “team”?
Working between different people (clients, account people, creatives, production) means different objectives and ideas of what should be done. By being able to understand where everyone is coming from, you can create work that is truly collaborative and is stronger because of it. Together, everyone can create work that they can truly be proud of.
It’s been a whirlwind of an internship at Trisect, and I can’t believe it is coming towards a close. I feel like I have already learned so much in the past 7 weeks, and I am incredibly optimistic for my future in this career path. Both my brain and my heart are happy working in this industry, and I feel like each day brings new and exciting challenges which push me forward.
Sorry, Mom and Dad; you’ll get your science golden child out of your second-born.
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Trisect is an Independent advertising agency with over 140 people across our two offices in Chicago and Los Angeles. Simply put, we are a change agency. As one of the country’s fastest growing independent shops, we help brands navigate a constantly changing marketplace, adapt and win. We listen harder. Collaborate better. And infuse business with exhilaration.