This past weekend, I ran away to New York City.
I was once again called back to the city that never sleeps to attend a new weekend-long program that BBH has created called Griffin Farley’s Search for Beautiful Minds in Planning.
Thirty of us from around the world gathered at BBH to not only honor Griffin (who died of cancer in February), but to also learn and network with some of the world’s best strategy consultants. As someone who has obsessively studied planning for almost two years now, it was a bit of an unreal experience for me to be sitting five feet away from people I’ve idolized for years and who I consistently stalk on SlideShare and Twitter.
What BBH has done, is it has created a platform for young planners to put their names on the map and to begin to build their network in the advertising industry. For two days, the thirty of us were locked in BBH with lead strategists, Heads of Planning, and Chief Strategy Officers from BBDO, BBH, Goodby, Ogilvy, and Havas. Each group was assigned a mentor and after receiving a crash course in Communications Planning (the planning that Griffin specialized in) as well as a round table discussion of “What Makes a Great Planner”, we were given the task of coming up with a strategy and executions for a specific campaign.
On Sunday, we presented our projects in front of Heads of Planning and Chief Strategy Officers. The top four projects were presented that Thursday at a reception for Beautiful Minds participants which sadly I wasn’t able to attend as I had to return to work.
As someone who has been in the work force for a year now, I believe I had a different perspective than the majority of the participants, most of whom had just graduated from college a month ago. For me, this opportunity provided me the chance to see how far I’ve come in a year, the chance to reaffirm my love of planning, and the chance to build my network.
One of the most rewarding seminars for me was Sarah Watson (Chief Strategy Officer of BBH NY) and David Paige of Ogilvy presentation, “What I Wish I Knew When I Started.” Both them and Heidi Hackemer speculated on the role of the planner in an agency setting and in the Creative Process. Below, I’ve listed a few quotes I wrote down that I feel explain the role of the planner perfectly, and they’re business tips that are really useful not only for those needing new career advice, but also for those who’ve been in the game for awhile.
“Advertising is a fluid dialogue. It’s not academia, it’s all instinct in which the brief is just the start of the process. Planners and Creatives spend all day thinking conceptually and sometimes we get lost inside our own heads so it’s important to know when to take a step away from the problem in order to get fresh insight because there’s always more than one solution to a problem.” – Sarah Watson
“As the planner, you set the tone and enthusiasm for the Creative team. Planners are here to make everyone else in the agency look smarter. They’re the wingman to both the Account Manager and the Creative team. They’re the truth seekers, they’re open to anything, impartial to work, and liberated from agendas.” – Heidi Hackemer (Planning Director) & Armando Turco (Head of Account Management at BBH)
“The planner is at the heart of the creative process. Don’t ever let anyone in this industry tell you you’re not creative. The stupidest thing this industry ever did was name the Creative department, the ‘Creative Department.” – Heidi Hackemer
“Stop worrying about whether or not you’ve got what it takes to be a strategist. You’ve been a strategist you’re entire life because you have the brain of a Planner. You’ve been doing it you’re entire life, you just haven’t realized you’ve been doing it. If you weren’t going to be great, you wouldn’t be here.” – Jess Neill (Goodby)
Perhaps most importantly, this experience made me realize how lucky I am to have people like Griffin Farley behind me – the mentors and the champions who are always there when I need them most, never questioning, never doubting, and never asking for anything in return. It’s people like them that this program truly honors.
BBH has announced that they will be making Beautiful Minds an annual program and I would encourage anyone, who like me is waging a full-out war trying to break in to the advertising industry, to apply. Who knows? This could be the opportunity you need to jump start your career.
But mostly, thank you to BBH for showing me that my perception of the Planner’s role in an agency is correct. As Heidi Hackemer said, “Planners have to be a little bit schizo. We’re both creative and analytical and we set the tone for the campaign. It’s not about us and our egos, it’s about the work.”
So thank you to BBH and Griffin Farley, who came in to my life when I needed them most. They gave me back my drive to be a planner and gave me the tools to make it happen. As one of my mentors loves to say, “Onward we go.”
Ashley Peabody is an Associate Business Developer for Oracle, based at their World Headquarters in San Francisco where she focuses on strategy development, campaign execution, and building strategic relationships with some of Oracle’s largest clients. She graduated from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication with an emphasis in Advertising and Communication Studies.
Photo credit: Greg Dillon