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!