Following your degree in Economics and Industrial Studies, how did you first break into the creative industry? Had this been a career path that you had envisaged for yourself as a student?
With hindsight, I was pretty clueless after university about what jobs were out there in the world — and definitely wouldn’t have been thinking about the creative industries. I thought this was something only people with artistic led degrees could have gone into.
I knew I was interested in why people do the things they do and understanding peoples behaviour — so whilst it wasn’t a career I’d ever previously considered, when a job opportunity came up in market research, I jumped at it.
And how did this journey lead to your first job in planning? Is there anything you’d do differently?
When I started, I didn’t know anything about advertising or communications agencies let alone planning. I didn’t have any specific career goal in sight other than to do something that I was interested in, and had an opportunity to progress in, rather than find a job that simply paid well.
I enjoyed the research, but through this I became more aware of marketing in general and the role of creative agencies. I realised then that I was far more interested in helping to develop the work itself rather than evaluate it, so made the jump into agency world.
It’s hard to recommended doing something differently as I’ve ended up in a place that I absolutely love — but I definitely wouldn’t say my career has followed a traditional path. On the one hand, it would have been great to have started with a junior planner role and learned from a respected CSO, but I was completely unaware of this world.
Instead, whilst my career may sometimes resemble a patchwork quilt with different types of role and company, it's united by two things: they were always roles that I found interesting, and they always needed me to understand the client’s audience and category in order to better influence marketing and/or business decisions.
"Planning is very much an integral part of the creative process"
What does your role as Strategy Partner at daughter involve?
I’m responsible for understanding how we can better use creativity to solve the brand, communication and business problems of our clients — or in other words, to make sure the work works.
I’m incredibly lucky in that my three business partners are all not just top-class creatives, but also understand and value the role of planning. At daughter, planning isn’t a process that aids the creativity, with me handing over a brief that a team then works on in isolation; it’s very much an integral part of the creative process. As John Webster said years ago, “this isn’t art, it’s business”, so whilst great creative is a cornerstone of what we do, it’s also essential that it is focussed in a way that meets the business needs of each client.
"It is incredibly backward to see planning as simply the writing of a creative brief that will inform an ad"
You spent several years working as a planner at a broad range of agencies — what does it mean to be a planner in today’s industry?
It has given me a real breadth of experience and an ability to be able to work on a wide variety of projects. I’ve had roles and projects I’ve found easy and had real success, whereas with others I’ve struggled — but the breadth of experience and environments is critical in today’s industry.
With the changing media landscape, the short-termism prevalent in many client's businesses and the (rightly) increasing focus in effectiveness, planners need to be able to adapt to any situation.
I don’t think it has ever really been this, but it is incredibly backward to see planning as simply the writing of a creative brief that will inform an ad. Instead, I see our role as looking for how creativity in all its forms can give our clients a business advantage — whatever that may entail.
What’s the best project you’ve worked on to date, and why?
The most exciting project is probably what we’re currently working on at daughter: the launch of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, their first SUV. As lead agency, we helped to develop the overall positioning of the car, as well as the creative platform for all future launch communications.
"It is an incredibly interesting, fun and rewarding job, allowing us to understand and get under the skin of different businesses, sectors and their audiences"
What are the biggest rewards and the greatest challenges of working in planning and strategy?
It is an incredibly interesting, fun and rewarding job, allowing us to understand and get under the skin of different businesses, sectors and their audiences — and then create ways to help them do whatever they do in better ways.
In terms of the greatest challenge, the way we work at daughter means it isn’t an issue here. But, in some agencies, planning has to work hard to gain respect and have a strong voice amongst the creative and client servicing departments.
What words of wisdom can you offer to those aspiring to follow in your footsteps?
To find roles that are interesting and inspiring, rather than chasing job titles or with big names above the door. Go where you’ll be challenged intellectually and learn the most. I feel that I’ve been really lucky, so I'm always really happy to chat to anyone looking for advice — feel free to drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org.