Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Psychoanalysing Account Handlers And Planners

I'm lucky, in that relations between the departments are excellent at BBH, and were great at my previous agency too. But I've certainly experienced shops where that isn't the case.

A CD I met yesterday on an awards jury had a very interesting psycho-analytic explanation for inter-departmental tensions: he suggested that Account Handlers and Planners in fact hate Creatives, because unconsciously they are jealous that we can do something they're unable to.

Furthermore, since they are dependent on us to come up with ideas, they also resent us, just as all human beings unconsciously resent anyone they are dependent on.

Got a couch? Climb aboard.


Lunar BBDO said...

I think the oedipal thing is what's at work here.

They all think we're motherfuckers.

Anonymous said...

Oh bloody hell. The shit's really going to hit the fan now.

Anonymous said...


The AdLads said...

Truth is we're all egomaniacal motherfuckers. Isn't that a part of why we do what we do?

Now I'm off to find someone so I can tell them that mine is bigger than theirs.

Anonymous said...

what is it you can do that they are unable to?

Anonymous said...

I must say old chaps, I went into this career with those preconceptions but there's been moments were account handlers have jumped on board and helped in on the creative work when they made a mistake and sent the creative teams in the wrong direction from what the client went, so although they make mistakes and can some time take the fun out of the brief they do it with the results and client in mind so I respect them for that after all if there were no rescrictions on us creatives then it wouldn't push us

Anonymous said...

On the flipside, does that mean that creatives hate planners/account handlers because we can you things that you guys can't? (as much as you would HATE to admit it hehe).

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

Most planners I know have no problem with creatives. It might depend on just how the planner works, whether they keep trying to interfere without reason.

They do say most planners are failed creatives, but do they really hate each other that much?

Surely that much distrust between collaborating employees should be dealt with by management.

Unknown said...

There's only two creatives I've ever had a problem with, and they were both fuckwits. (There's also two planners I've had problems with, and they were both fuckwits too. Oh, and there's a guy at my dry cleaners who is a complete and utter tool as well.)

Anonymous said...

All our Planners and Creatives sit muddled up together, not in separate areas of the agency which makes for better working than any other agency I have been in. It's not so easy to be a twat to someone when you sit together I think.

The AdLads said...

And Angus is off...

Stuart Parkinson said...

Scamp - Well, maybe you're right, but what if you're a planner who believes that you do the intellectual heavylifting before you hand someone who has no idea how to behave in a meeting a brief so that they can win awards by applying what are usually someone elses artistic ideas to sell product?

I'm not saying I think that way, I'm just being flippant, as that's all the response your post really warrants. It seemed way off par in terms of insight and articulation compared with your normal thoughts. Do you think, perhaps, that you haven't worked with planners who've inspired you, or really justified their existence?

Rob, I think the idea that planners are failed creatives is proposterous and inflammatory. It comes from a shallow look into what we're doing. Media men are failed ad people, maybe...but I'm a planner because I couldn't handle being artistic on someone elses dollar. What I can handle, and enjoy more than anything (even writing ads...gasp), is using my intellect to solve business problems. That, and the fact that I'm better able to understand macro concepts and work on the big picture, rather than on individual executions.

I write, paint and make music in my spare time, and I like it that way.

I've found tremendous benefit in testing my strategies, ideas and briefs with creatives before they're in concrete. From talking to creatives, I've gained some tremendous insights, articulations and creative leaps that have only served to make the end product better.

Why all the resentment?

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

Fenton: I agree its a big generalisation, its just a phrase that seems commonly used! I can't (and wouldn't) vouch for how accurate it is, but I felt it relevant as a possible explanation of some of the anger suggested here between the two departments.

You have to be creative in many ways to get planning, as otherwise how would you know what is going to inspire creatives?

But all that aside, I wonder how much of this anger is assumed? Though word is (from a mate who visited) that everyone at Mother hates planners...

Stuart Parkinson said...

I'd make one correction to what I think planners do. It's not just solving business problems, it's solving them creatively. You're right, creativity needs to be there from the start, and in terms of getting the best out of creatives, it's an inspiring and imaginative planner who usually does that.

I can't remember if it's Jon Steel or another big planner who admitted that agencies wouldn't die without planners, so maybe, in some sense, creatives are more necessary than we are. But I don't think there'd be any argument to the statement that it's easier to write brilliant, effective work when a superb piece of planning has been done first. Emphasis on effectiveness there.

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

A football team can still play without a manager, but they aren't going to have the same preparation or tactical awareness.

Anonymous said...

nothing to resent. it's fact agencies can't survive without creatives but they can without planners.

Account handlers are usually to stupid to experience emotions of resentment/hate/ambition but agencies would struggle without them since no one with any creative talent should/deserves to kiss anyone's ass. No matter how big the client.

A planning function can be substituted with a bloody good qual/quant agency. Creative's or account handlers can't unless the cleaners want to chip in.

So actually, remove planners and you can restore balance to the force.

Alternatively, do away with these stupid retro titles and just employ creatively minded folk who either create or deliver comms campaigns.

Anonymous said...

"It's not just solving business problems, it's solving them creatively."

Too true. But isn't that a description of the role of an ad agency, not just it's planners?

I'm not old enough to have worked with Ogilvy or Bernbach, but this is what they used to do. Has the rise of the planner relegated creatives like me to the role of mere artisan or -- even worse -- a window-dresser for a strategy?

Anonymous said...

As an account handler I got to at least try and represent my kind.

I personally don't envy what creatives do as I get more enjoyment from trying to tackle a client's problems and trying to find feasible and efffective solutions.

However, if we're mud slinging you could say account handlers and planners don't like creatives as they tend to be conceited, precocious, precious and more interested in award chasing than in doing great work (which are not always the same thing).

Anonymous said...

agree with rjhayter. planning is killing ad creative in the UK IMHO. a great strategic thinker you can have a good chat with is invaluable. but how many of those are there?

back in the day creatives (usually writers) did the thinking (strategy) and the creative. and the account people sold it.

i look at the UK stuff these days and a lot of it feels like animated strategy. it's advertising on prozac.

just because something makes sense doesn't make it interesting or exciting.

shouting down non-tango drinkers. now that was a good creative strategy.

Anonymous said...

I think there's some really good stuff being said in the responses here - I agree the ad business at its best is solving business problems with creativity. In my experience the best 'strategies' have come from good creatives - also, the most creative environment I've worked in is when you just have group of smart people (some creatives, some account people) working together to do good stuff. I think the best advertising is creative and strategy that are the same thing and are inseparable - just a damn good 'advertising idea' that hits the nail right on the head. Like in the GOD (good ole days) when advertising was just smart people sitting around coming up with ideas to sell the clients' product. A lot of modern advertising is over-flowery executional stuff trying to dress up a boring strategy for the benefit of execution/technique obsessed awards juries. I blame planners, and the current creative peer pressure for 'creadivvidy'.

Anonymous said...

another great tango creative strategy:

diet tango, you need it because you're weak. with the tv ads tempting you to make bacon sandwiches.

was that the planner or the creative who came up with that one? brilliance.

(i do not have any connection to HHCL btw.)

Anonymous said...

I think they hate creatives because creatives think other people are jealous of their mind-boggling talents.

Or, to be more specific, they hate those creatives in particular. As we all should. And then laugh at them. And remind them we makes ads, most of which are quite bad. Yes, even you good creatives do bad ads. I've seen them.

Anonymous said...

I may be over simplifying here but truth is, we all need each other.

Account people are vital because lets face it creatives, we can't be arsed doing the meetings and the dinners and the babysitting that it takes to build a relationship.

Planners are vital because lets face it fellow creatives we can't be arsed sifting through trend analysis, quant, qual, focus groups, touch-point workshops and the like trying to find insights and a decent disruptive positioning.

And Creatives are vital because ultimately we dream up the stuff that actually makes the consumer like our brands enough to get off their arses and buy something. Sure, we may chase awards but managed correctly we'll win awards and do great things for our clients too.

We may occasionally squabble and spit and bitch but we all need each other - or great work doesn't happen.

Strange but true.

william said...

For me the existence of planners is explained by the existence of Art School advertising courses. Before these, university graduates could sidle up to a creative director in a bar in Soho, show him their book and be given a job more or less on the spot. After them, the business of getting a job became so bizarre and ritualised that very few people who felt like they had finished their education could be arsed with it.

Any monkey with a degree can become a planner. You have to learn some skills (a few, come on, there are a few) if you want to be a creative.

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

Maybe this is linked to the Playing to Lose thing.

Creative Directors look to creatives to make award targeted work.

Creatives make award targeted work.

Planners dislike the fact that the award targeted work doesnt meet the strategy but the CD likes it anyway because it could win an award.

Account Handlers then have to sell an ad that doesnt fit the strategy .

Neither can blame the CD, so they blame the creatives.

Cycle? Or just a mismatch in understanding and respect in some agencies?

Anonymous said...

I think all the planners at Fallon must be really really lovely people because they think every thing is just nice. Really sunshine filled nice, not a cloud in the sky kind of nice, like ice cream on a summers day nice, like hanging with your friends in the park nice, like plinky plonky guitar music nice.

I want to be a planner at Fallon.


Anonymous said...

I didn't think Russell Davies was a planner at Fallon‽

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

To quote the tv show Mad Men "Advertising is about happiness"

Fallon seem to excel at that right now.

Anonymous said...

Russell Davies is nice. But he was at W+K, wasn't he? I read his blog still, every now and then. Whereas it used to interesting and insightful, it now seems directionless and lost. Maybe being self-employed doesn't suit him?

Anonymous said...

There were some amazing adverts made before planning was even invented. There were some amazing adverts made after.

The best creatives I met (not too many though) can create a strategy with just as well as another, as well as an amazing ad.

With some of the best work out there, the strategy was backed into it. Others, the strategy IS the idea.

Some of the best selling I've ever seen done has been not only by some great account people, but also used care salesmen, berbers, and CD's.

Lesson? You need people with talent, fullstop.

Charles Edward Frith said...

I think a creative planner and a film director could probably render most 'creative teams' obsolete.

Anonymous said...

I think a creative and a film director could make most planners obsolete.

Oh, actually, we'd need someone to make the tea in the editing suite.

Mine's white with one, Charlie.

Anonymous said...

i hate/love everyone.

Anonymous said...

i know a good creative and a good director could render planners obsolete. i've been doing it my entire career. no shortage of awards here either.

mine's a cappucino.

Anonymous said...

Teh internets has made you all obsolete.