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So as most of you may know, I’ve been loitering around Amsterdam for the past few weeks. No I have not been doing nothing, I’ve actually been scheming.

Thanks to my MASE connections, a bit of digging around, and a certain level of persistence, I’ve managed to meet with Wieden + Kennedy, 180, THEY, Naked, Blast Radius, DDB, & Sid Lee Amsterdam agencies.

My goal was to just see what each agency culture was like, increase my connections, and ultimately get some valuable advice for someone seeking to start a career in account planning. With all that I’ve gathered, I figured why not spread the word and hopefully encourage all those soon to be planners.

With all meetings I’ve managed to ask two standard questions among others:

“What attributes do successful planers share?”

“What advice would you give someone such as myself, seeking a career in planning?”

So with all the informational interviews, I’ve pooled together some info from the mouths of Europe’s leading planners:

stay curious. Be interested in why people do the things they do or what gets them.
– stay optimistic and ambitious, it can turn into a waiting game, especially during a time of recession, but one must stay focused.
– evaluate the agency culture to best fit you
– stay focused
– be passionate
– live in the now, know what is going on in the world. Stay educated with current trends, technologies, news, & anything to do with life
– be motivated and determined
– be humble, be ready to give credit away. Your reputation is built on what others have to say about you.
– be knowledgeable, continually educate yourself. Have a thirst for knowledge
– read, read anything and everything
cut the clutter, be able to get to the point
be a great story teller, advertising is all about clearly telling a convincing story
have a point of view and be able clearly describe it and argue for it
– stay productive, especially if you find yourself with a lot of free time. Focus on building on skill sets that will make you a valuable planner
– Planners are experience designers (http://garethkay.typepad.com/, look at Oct 19 and 20 entry)
– avoid general lateral thinking
– be an expert in a few subjects rather then know a little of everything and spread yourself too thin. People can tell if you’re bullshitting
– A good analogy I was told: “Think of good planning as the game Telephone, a great planner will be able to start the communication and guide it so the end result will be the same.”
– Think of the “T” bar structure, have 3 solid pillars of knowledge where you can be an expert at (i.e. design, consumers, technology, etc.)
– try to set up as many informational interviews as possible to get your face out there and to find the agency that connects with your personality and ideas
be able to talk to anyone, from eccentric consumers to spaced out creatives

Also, here are a few of my own experiences and observations:

– planning is usually a small fraction of the entire agency
– planners are intellectual, articulate, friendly, and helpful individuals
– planners will have to be able to educate themselves by diving into the deep end
– planners all have various roles in different agencies, from creative planners to communications consultants
– planers must be ready to have their work disregarded
– planners travel quite a bit for research and new business pitches
– agency lobbies say a lot about how they operate
– be persistent when contacting planners, but not over zealous (aka annoying). They are very busy individuals, but a more then willing to chat if they have time.

Here are also a few recommended links to give you more info regarding planning:

Redefining Planning

Transmedia Planning & Brand Communities

Few books I was recommended:

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies (Charlene Li, Josh Bernoff)

Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell)

and of course the 2 must reads for planners (Jon Steele’s Truth, Lies & Advertising and Eating the Big Fish)

Remember to check the “Knowledge” tab for a list of great blogs to read.

I will be meeting with JWT and W+K in London in the following weeks so I’ll update if need be.

Good luck and I hope this helped!

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