5 Roles Planners Play in the Creative Process

I met Tess McGourty after stumbling on her series for junior planners on Medium (10/10 would recommend reading!). As a Strategist at 180LA, she's not only worked with big brands, but also takes time to pass her learnings on to those just starting out. She's written us a Guest Pro email on the ways planners apply creativity to strategy that I can't wait for you to read—here's Tess.

Account Management, Planning, Production, and Creative all require creativity, but each function is creative in different ways. If you’re considering Planning as the route to apply your creativity -- this is for you.

Planners play an important role in the creative process, heading up what has been called “the creativity behind the creativity.” Here are 5 ways planners are creative powerhouses in agencies.

1. Planners are creative problem solvers—we use our left and right brain to bridge the worlds of business and creativity. 
Out of every department in the agency, planners are the most equally balanced left-brain-right-brain thinkers. We view clients’ business problems through an artistic lens, bridging the gap between the separate and sometimes competing worlds of business and creativity. 

We mix data with intuitive leaps to develop strategies where both creativity and business can flourish. Take Old Spice's “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” for example. The clients wanted to sell more men’s body wash. A typical business-minded person would default to marketing to men. Instead, the planners dug into sales data and uncovered a broader and far more interesting problem: women were buying the majority of men’s body wash and had no experience with Old Spice. The insight resulted in better creative and more body wash sold. 

2. Planners are creative (and nosy) researchers—we uncover opportunity by looking in interesting places and asking the right questions. 
This is the #1 way creatives and planners differ -- creatives are more like novelists, and planners are more like investigative journalists. We are relentlessly nosy researchers. 

On our quest to find the interesting, we tend to go down original paths that reveal things no one knew about the brand, consumer, or culture. We design bespoke research that reimagines the standard focus group or survey, and doesn’t put people to sleep. We use our diverse interests to draw inspiration from everywhere, and report our findings back to the agency. 

3. Planners are creative biographers—able to empathize and write compelling stories about all types of people. 
The only way to get real insight about a group of people is to get to know them and genuinely like them. Every good Planner I know falls in love with each target audience they study -- a phenomenon I’ve lovingly dubbed Planner Stockholm Syndrome.

We learn who people are at their core: what makes them crave or buy things. What makes them feel proud or ashamed. Hungry or full. 

We find kernels of real humanity that can inspire a room full of painfully cool and oft aloof people to want to work into the late hours of the night, making something that will make the target audience's life better, or at least more interesting. In my opinion, this is one of the most vital pieces of the creative process. 

4. Planners are performers—the creative briefing is our stage.  
Like all creative work, Planning is about storytelling. We build decks and orchestrate presentations that clarify and captivate. All good planners are showmen with the ability to rally people around an idea and keep them thinking beyond the boardroom.

5. Planners are Creatives' partners—complementing their raw creativity with a dose of logic. 
Planners and Creatives have different but complementary creative muscles -- which is why we're the peanut butter to their jelly. Creatives bring the raw creativity, and we bring a necessary dose of logic. We tend to think in themes and keep our eye on the big picture. We know the context, which helps us structure and shape work into cohesive campaigns. 

In summary
Every day is different for the Planner. We have one foot in business and the other in creativity, and enjoy the tension in between. We switch back-and-forth between analyzing data sets and using intuition to develop original ideas.

If this style of creativity resonates with you, then I think we’ve found ourselves another Planner. 👊

Yours in all of your creative pursuits,

Follow Tess on Medium & Twitter for more wisdom for junior planners.