Merk & Strategie

Zijn planners 'safe-looking people with dangerous minds'?

Boris Nihom, blogger | 11 december 2015, 14:17

Twee weken geleden sprak ik op de nieuwe European Planning Conference in Praag. Mijn collega Sandra Molin schreef een verslag.


A report from the European Planning Conference in Prague 26-27th of November

This was just one of the many questions floating around during two intense days in the pretty city of Prague. Where this year’s edition of the European Planning Conference brought together around 30 strategic souls, all with their own interpretation and experience of the field of strategy.

In an attempt to wrap our heads around our profession and the future of advertising, we strove to answer; Who is the strategic planner and what skills are required in this fast running brand world we call our home?


Last years common thread had apparently been storytelling and if we had to pick the buzzword for 2015’s conference it would definitely be behavioural change. We’re seeing patterns that takes us back to what was there first. Before clicks, shares, seeding and content; back to the people.

A human centred approach might seem like something relatively new within the creative industry, but what we should realise is that this is old school advertising in a modern suit. This is what the ad men used to do and what ad agencies were trusted as well as expected to accomplish; solving business problems driven by human behaviour.

Why do you think we drink orange juice or wipe our noses with Kleenex? Advertising initiated new ways to use these products. When the orange harvest was too big to be eaten, Sunkist enabled people to double their intake by drinking juice.

We sometimes need to take a step back because no matter how fantastically stories might be told, they don’t always inspire people to actually change. Which is why a strategic planner must use influences from psychology, design and even good old history to lay the foundation for impact.


Another rolling theme during the days was what planners can, and have to learn from other fields than advertising. And how strategist overall benefit from having this flexible, yet a bit dangerous mind that wander from left to right to inspire and bring new perspectives to the creative process.

One of the talks taught us how it can be beneficial to negotiate like diplomats and strive for creative agreements between parts rather than compromising.

Additionally, we got a lesson in how we should listen to historians since they are brilliant at understanding change. Their ability to see details, map their relationships to each other and translate that into patterns is a skill needed more than ever.

Not to mention how the design of board games train our skills in setting objectives, grasping situations and define a strategy to execute. Because after all, isn’t a client brief a bit like being put down in the middle of a game of chess?


Since advertising was invented long before the role of the planner existed, we easily concluded that Don Draper actually was a pretty neat strategist himself. Steering us into a very interesting discussion on the definition of the role of a planner today. Apart from being chameleons, rapidly changing opinions and approaches after context, perhaps we should also be liberos? 

So rather than being a department on our own, act like the free moving generalists that connects the specialists within the agency. Who actually, sometimes isn’t needed at all, and sometimes add a tremendous value to the process. Either by bringing in a new point of view  or just by making sure everything is on track with the goals set internally and by the client. The planning role can in that sense be seen as non-linearity at its best.

There’s a lot to be said about a planner’s contribution within an agency, but when all is said and done, strategic planning is about making things work. We should keep the sanity whilst taking all different ideas and approaches into perspective and later support the team to pick out the golden gems.

Finding that balance between being right, to narrow and optimise, and being interesting enough to inspire is an art and our never ending challenge.


Do we indeed have them? I honestly don’t know. But they sure are trained to be a little unpredicted and quick to make new connections from far and near. Which of course come in handy on a daily basis. And the conference surely didn’t suppress the urge to think outside the world of advertising.

So with the gathered insights from two days of strategic nerdiness, together with a pinch of Czech craft beer, sausages and ravishing architecture, we can draw the conclusion than that the likelihood of us coming back next year is considerable high. 

Over de auteur

Boris Nihom
Parter @ Achtung! Lees meer over Boris Nihom

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