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Producing radiohead and account planning

September 21, 2005

The recent Influx piece on Nigel Godrich highlighted the important role of the skilled record producer as a collaborator with his musical creative partners. Russell Davies, the global planning director at Nike, just gave a speech for a UK planning awards show, explaining how he sees the changing role of account planners. Russell suggests that an important shift is happening in the world of planning, as planners evolve from lone guru/geniuses to team builders and collaborators.

“…it’s obvious that in the modern world ideas aren’t really had by a lone genius. They don’t come from a clever planner in an ivory tower or a genius creative team in a black box. The modern brand world is too complex for that. Ideas are turning up through teamwork,conversation and iteration. And that team includes the client, agency people, other partners and all sorts of random people like consumers.

So it’s probably unfair to punish planners for not having the idea. We saw, in many instances, that planners were operating more like midwives of ideas. They laboured to ensure the group delivered a healthy, vigorous idea, even if they didn’t have it themselves.

This midwife role isn’t something you read about in many planning textbooks, but it’s one of the reasons planners are so employable outside advertising these days; because this is how most media/communications businessesoperate. Teams have ideas. Teams do strategy. Teams do execution. And knowing how to make that happen and how to swarm all over that process makes you very valuable.”

This shift that reflects the changing world of communication with its multiple layers and disciplines, it’s too big for one person or one team to tackle. It’s a new world in dire need of a new set of skills. It’s not just the planner that needs to get it, everyone does. Co-operation and collaboration aren’t really taught at business schools and its interesting that a design agency, IDEO, who’ve practiced collaboration for many years, are now teaching others how to do it.

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