Planners 'have lost sight' of their strategic role

Rachael Micallef
By Rachael Micallef | 20 April 2015

Strategic planners have “lost sight” of their role as an agency’s consumer voice and need to lead agencies in solving business problems, not making ads, according to account planning group (APG) Chair Jason Lonsdale.

Speaking to AdNews, Lonsdale – who is also Saatchi & Saatchi's executive planning director - said agencies are too inward focused, which has stopped the marketing profession getting the ear of the CEO.

“We’ve become obsessed with our output, with the ads that we make and the creative awards that we win and the work that we sell,” Lonsdale said.

“We are insufficiently obsessed with the outcome of that work. If marketing and advertising wants a seat at the top table, we need to be obsessed with solving real business problems.”

His comments come as the Communications Council launches its new IPA Strategic Planning course, which runs next month.

The three-day program will be chaired by Lonsdale in Sydney and in Melbourne by M&C Saatchi chief strategy officer Justin Graham, to explore the challenges and opportunities for planners in leading agencies in this new function.

Lonsdale said planners need to be taking the front foot in driving agencies towards this focus. And to do so, they need to focus on what he calls “new fashioned” planning: a mix between the way agencies operate now and a view to the past where planners were “the voice of the consumer in an agency”.

“The world has changed dramatically and planning has changed dramatically,” Lonsdale said.

“For me there is a sense to which there is a danger that we’ve lost sight of our main job.

“It’s about looking at how we can evolve our principles and our practices to better affect this new world, but it’s not about throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”

Confirmed speakers for the IPA course include: UM chief strategy officer Sophie Price, VICE Australia head of content Alex Light, and ChapterSF co-founder Gareth Kay, speaking via Google Hangout from San Francisco.

Communications Council CEO Tony Hale said the course, the second IPA experiential program to run in Australia, has been designed as an “immersive” experience, and is aimed at planners with two or more years' experience or account managers making the transition to planning.

“This course requires planners to remove themselves from the agency, re-focus, live and build close working relationships with their peers, and interact with some of the best minds in their field,” Hale said.

It runs from 24-26 May in Sydney and 31 May- 2 June in Melbourne.

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