Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Coffee with Saatchi & Saatchi Dubai Planner, Brenda Kassir

DC: So to help clear the air of any and all ambiguity, how would you define your role as a brand planner within Saatchi?

BK: I am an archeologist* by day and a dreamer by night. What this really means is that I patiently, scrupulously search for objects and information that will help piece together artifacts on a site, so that we can derive meaning and understand how people live their life and interact with various objects and people around them. Our intent is to uncover new insights so that we may get a clear picture of the nature of the problem at hand. Then, as a dreamer I take a creative leap and turn some ordinary facts into something that will help the magicians on the team think in new ways. The ultimate aim is to provide direction that will allow our magicians to develop communication that is original, relevant and inspiring.I've been refining my tricks for a lifetime now, that is, ever since I was born 96 years ago - and each day that goes by I learn something new from the world around me, and the civilizations that came before.

DC: How would you describe the current level of planning in the region and where is it headed? Do you feel planners are valued as much as they are in the west?

BK: I feel that communications and marketing in the region is becoming increasingly sophisticated and as such, demand for people who think the way planners think is increasingly sought after. I think the lack of an advertising body (let alone a planning one!) does not help the industrys' development within the regions' economy. I don't find it necessary to compare things with 'the west' - it doesn't do justice to this region to be compared to another. The pace of development is different, as is the culture, the people, history, political, social, economic environments etc etc etc. If we want the planning function to grow we must demonstrate its benefits to this region. Good planning will be valued by intelligent people, whether they be in the U.K or in the U.A.E, its just the U.A.E is still in its infancy compared to the U.K and therein lies the opportunity.

DC: Some people have gone so far as to say that planning is a dead end career choice in the region? You would obviously disagree. Could you tell us why?

BK: Today, the advertising industry is facing trouble on many fronts. Media houses have begun to bring 'consumer insights' experts in-house thus treading in territory previously the bastion of communication/ad agencies, consultants are being sought after for 'branding' advice, design consultants have made a niche for themselves, and clients are demanding strategic through-the-line solutions. In this new reality, if the function of planning is not supported within the ad industry it will gladly be sweeped up by these other more agile players in the communications market. Planners have nothing to fear, the advertising industry does if they don't support a planning mentality.

DC: Any words of wisdom you can offer any young aspiring planners? Favourite planning book?

BK: Hmmm, I'm still trying to find good advice myself, but here's some notes I've taken along my adventure:1. Good planners are creative thinkers without being wannabe creatives. A creative brief should be the beginning of the creative process.2. Good planners should be inquisitive, curious and instinctive.3. Good planners must have a good mix of quantitative and qualitative skills.4. Good planners must learn from the world around them and be able to look at things differently.5. Good planners must be strategic business people.6. Good planners must be people you'd want to have a chat to.
Pollitt on Planning - it's a great introduction to the basics of planning from the man who established planning at JWT more than 30 years ago.

DC: Much appreciated Brenda for being the first guest on DC!


Anonymous Incognito said...

Dear Brenda,

Do you have any openings?


12:26 AM  
Anonymous Ish said...

Brenda your great!
I have a couple of questions. What’s the first thing you look for when hiring a young planner? And, what other discipline is it important to absorb when someone wants to be a planner? Sociology, psychology, economics, history, philosophy?

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Brenda said...


We don't have any opening at the moment but perhaps towards the end of the year we may be looking for an entry level account planner to join the team.

Personally, I look for people who are enthusiastic and curious. Planning is not a discipline that is taught, some of the greatest planners have had backgrounds in law, medicine, english literature. Whats' necessary is keen sense of observation and questioning everything. The beauty of planning is that it encompasses many disciplines and a wide knowledge base - sociology, economics, philosophy would be good.

10:49 AM  
Anonymous gb said...

Some agencys go on to support the notion that the planning should be done by their account peeople.
Is there any merit in this or do you believe its all pocket protecting?

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Crusty said...

when was the last time you saw your local account person leaving at 6?
Now add on somemore planning hours to their sched'

A) they don't have the time B) agencys that can claim handling/planning have done quite the job recruiting people who can do both.

"Our account handlers do both" is a claim i would be pretty weary of in the region.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Cuio said...

Salutations Brenda! Sorry I am a little late. I have a pair of questions. (Well actually one question which branched off into 2 semi questions)

Do you sense the state of the industry (as criticized by many) could in largely be due to the lack of planning talent over here?

Doesn’t planning play an integral role in the end creative result? I mean some of the best advertising in the world was founded on the very backs of great briefs?

6:47 PM  
Blogger AD MAD said...

My suggestion is to start at the beginning:

Questions (1) Have you ever seen a global brand plan?


...it's not a good brief, that's the job of the client,

...it's not an idea they come from anywhere

...it's not an insight, this is a matter of interpretation and any good marketing department won't leave it to a planner's judgment, intuition or general intellect.

...so the story goes on

If you haven't seen a brand plan or met a respected planner on a global brand (outside the UAE) get your hands on both - because it has the following effect on you:

A complete sense of inadequacy

...good planners are people who can absorb more insights about customers than you think is humanly possible and apply them to every aspect of a brand, product, service, socio economic, religious, moral, business objective.......need I go on

A true planner can be in an agency, consultancy, client side...it's a description not a role and establishes itself as Brenda said on raw intellectual ability.

Question 2) how do we judge our planner and what they can add to the agency that creative and client servicing don't?

You want ideas? Then if he/she has a good idea he's a good planner!

You want amazing briefs? Then if he/she has a good brief he's a good planner!

You want new insights? Then if he/she has a good insight he's a good planner!

Conclusion: Don't think they’re going to plan everything that can be described as planning!

THE SIMPLE TEST – Do you think a particular persons insights and guidance provided on ANY piece of work at a strategic level are the best in the agency 9/10 times? If yes then they're good for the region – but make sure he/she is actually in planning?????!!!!!!

4:26 PM  
Blogger AD MAD said...

Just changed my name to AD MAD from ADCRAPPER - private joke got boring!

4:38 PM  
Blogger X said...

Thanks again Brenda!

Enjoy the weekend everybody.

8:31 PM  
Blogger Irfan said...

Are there any openings on Accounts/Client Services department, how can one apply ?

Irfan Siddiqui

4:59 PM  

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