“The best way to get a job is to write down all the things you love to do, draw a circle around it, and call it a job.” —Jelly Helm, former ECD at Wieden + Kennedy and founder of Jelly Helm Studio
I love that advice — the audacity! these Millennial sensibilities purr — but I’ve never had to exercise it because Stanley Pollitt and Stephen King did my legwork about 45 years ago. In the late ‘60s, Pollitt and King birthed modern account planning in the UK advertising industry, and if I were to sit down and do the circle thing, I think I’d end up with something akin to what Pollitt and King begot.
This aha! moment came when I discovered that PSFK — my favorite website, which I’d before considered just a random curatorial triumph — was billed as a resource for the strategic planning community. (PSFK now goes by the broader, “The go-to source for new ideas and inspiration for creative professionals.”) Suddenly all this fascinating stuff — branding, design, consumer psychology, pop cultural trends, behavioral economics — was housed beneath an existing job title, something called “strategic planning” that people were apparently getting paid to do right that second. I now had a target.
Several Googles later I’d cornered a working understanding of what planners do. It varies by agency and account but seems generally to boil down to this:
- Learn about the consumer. Learn about the brand. Learn about the brand’s business problem. Learn about the market. Learn about the media landscape. Learn everything else within the sphere of human knowledge that’s potentially relevant. Write creative brief.
There’s more to it than that, but the intellectual sponging is what draws me, and I was sold.
I took my growing interest to Andy and Chris, two planners at Wieden + Kennedy who generously agreed to talk shop over coffee. They confirmed most of what I’d read, which was by then a fair amount, and I left the meeting encouraged. Andy and Chris were terribly nice and very sharp.
The clincher came just a few nights later when, drinks in hand, I wound up speaking with a pair of young creatives — a writer/AD team — who do well-known and well-regarded work for a venerable brand. I told them I was thinking about strategic planning.
“Yeah, man,” one of them chuckled, “that’s a good way to make bank just thinking shit up.”
I think he was being facetious; I know he was being drunk on whiskey. But if his statement was even half accurate, I figure I’m on the right track.