The angriest response I’ve ever had from planners is when I quoted another planner.

Jon Steel has been named as: “one of the top 5 account planners in the world”.

He’s worked at some of the best places and he wrote one of the best books: TRUTH, LIES, AND ADVERTISING.

He’s a planner who actually makes things better, the work and the agency.

But lots of young planners, who’ve never done anything, were outraged by a quote of his.

John Steel said: “The best attribute a planner can have is to be useful”.

No wonder they were shocked, they felt he demeaned them by reducing their contribution to the word ‘useful’.

These are the junior planners who call themselves ‘strategists’.

People who have decided they will not lower themselves to being merely ‘useful’.

They must have a grand title suited to the very crucial nature of their job.

They don’t merely contribute to the advertising, they ARE the advertising, without planning (sorry, strategy) there would be no advertising.

After they have bestowed their wisdom, all that is left is for everyone else is to follow theirdirections, like painting by numbers.

These young planners (strategists) haven’t understood the real meaning of the word ‘useful’,because a planner doesn’t have a craft.

An art director has a craft, a copywriter has a craft, a producer has a craft, a typographer has a craft, a director has a craft, a photographer has a craft, an animator has a craft, a sound-engineer has a craft, even the guys who put together banner-ads have a craft.

Because without these people the ads don’t physically get made, so nothing happens.

You can’t make ads without these people, but you can make ads without planners.

So we don’t physically need planners to make the advertising.

The sole object of planners is to make the advertising better.

To make the ads better a planner needs to find where and how they can contribute.

In other words, how they can be useful.

That’s what Jon Steel meant.

Planning shouldn’t just be another brick in the wall, it should be the mortar that holds the entire wall together.

At its best, that’s what planning is.

Most young planners see their job as stopping the worst excesses of the creatives.

Introducing the realities of the marketplace and the consumer.

Usually this means following the category norms, making the advertising more like everyone else’s in the market.

So they see their job as a brake, not an accelerator.

Which is exactly what made Jon Steel and the other great planners different.

They saw it as their job to give the creatives a springboard not a strait jacket.

So the creatives could start from a new and original place, instead of being dragged back to the same old dreary formulas.

We don’t need planners (or strategists) for that, we can do the same old dreary formulas ourselves.

What we need is creative thinkers with a helicopter view.

Someone to take us where we never would have thought of going.

Someone to give us a new and different start point, so the advertising must end up as original and surprising.

Someone to act as a turbo-charger, not a brake.

Now that really would be useful.