This is quite a simple one.
The Planner of the future will need to be more Global not just in experience but in outlook and orientation. Obviously clients are going in this direction which means its where the income stream is. But more significantly this is the way the world is going. We will travel more, we'll consume more culture from outside of our home countries, and we'll all become less 'national' and more 'cosmopolitan'. Planners will need to make sure their ideas are more cosmopolitan and will need to focus not just on the difference of brands but how they can connect to the similarities in people across cultures.
The greatest thing about this is that no-one has really cracked it yet. It's the biggest unconquered horizon for Planning and if you're adventurous its where you'll be heading.
Cultivate your instinct and intuition
I think Malcolm Gladwell is right about his 'Blink' thesis. And it's not just trendy pop-social science pundits working for the New Yorker who are saying this kind of thing. Countless neuroscientists and even self-proclaimed marketing geniuses (Martin Lindstrom) are now talking-up the role of the subconscious in decision-making. Last but not least I also believe Paul Feldwick and Robert Heath are right about when they talk about "low involvement processing" in communication.
All of this is a huge slap in the face for the idea of 'rationality' in psychology, human decision-making, and how people relate to communications. It's not new news of course as many enlightened marketers knew this... well kind of instinctively.
So if communications is often subliminal, deeply rooted, subconscious, and deeply irrational then surely the person who advises on how to communicate effectively will need to have a deeply attuned sense of instinct and intuition?
I've stolen this phrase from a very bizarre magazine I picked up once.....
... so how is it relevant? Well to me great Planners are voracious consumers of culture in all its shapes and colours. That's why Planners love the internet so much. The stereotype of the Planner being a sort of Nathan Barley style figure obsessed with obscure Belgian electro-acoustic performers (a very London stereotype) is right because good ideas can come from having this kind of personality, even thought the Nathan Barley bit is perhaps a bit discomforting....
James Webb Young defined an idea as being two things being put together that haven't been put together before. I think if you've got a thirst for 'Strange Attractors' then you've got a better chance of coming up with good new ideas.
Also focus on skills which don't come naturally
If you're bright, energetic and creative you'll probably do well in Planning. However, these building blocks of raw talent often aren't enough on their own. The biggest issue I see with the development of Planners is that they're not always good at doing the things they don't do well naturally. These are the things which are often roadblocks to development e.g. not being interested in the business side of things, or seeing management, and definitely anything to do with Account Management, as something slightly satanic.
I don't think its a radical prediction to say that brands and strategy are going to become more important in the future. Obviously there are some who think that the future of Advertising is a little less rosy. This will leave a huge gap for Planners to fill if they want to take it. Our skills and often our personality, values and disposition are much better suited to this new environment we're facing than a lot of suits and creatives who often want to cling to the old ways. One things is for sure however is that if you limit your skillset to "Pseudo-intellectual with a trendy T-shirt who client likes because they are little bit more honest" then you won't be able to take these opportunities. Which leads me to my final point....
Become a producer
A year or so ago I met a proper marketing genius called Pau Yi Min who runs the PPGroup in Taiwan and isn't as well known as Martin Lindstrom probably because he doesn't say things like "I work 450 days a year with all of the world's most important people on all of the most important projects" in the early chapters of his books. Anyway, I'm getting off the point. To my mind Pau Yi Min runs the agency of the future, much more so than our Western darlings like Crispin or Anomaly. If you're interested you should find out more.
Pau Yi Min said that one of the reasons of his agency's success is that it doesn't matter who you are, what you've done before, or what you're primary expertise is - everyone in his agency has to be a producer some of the time. His agency does everything - graphics, digital, traditional advertising, events, retail, and not only is it all brilliant but its also very often highly innovative, doing things that haven't been done before. What's great about his model is that everyone plays a role in making this happen. I often see Planners who are now starting to come up with communications and marketing ideas that are often better than what the creative department generates but we generally have no idea about how to make them happen which means that these ideas die in the creative departments bin of 'not invented here'. I think if Planners could learn to become better producers then the sky is the limit. Then we wouldn't have to call it 'Planning' anymore. The End!
Pete Heskett is South-East Asia Planning Director at JWT and former Head of Planning at BBH China.