Saatchi & Saatchi: tips to become an advertising Planner

Every week I run my “get a job in advertising” series, which is aimed to help give budding admen and women some tips and insight on getting into the ad industry. This week I spoke to Adam Symons, Account Planner at Saatchi & Saatchi, London, on how to become an advertising Planner and how he made it into advertising.

Everyone in adland knows Saatchi & Saatchi. Established in 1970, they now have 140 offices dotted all round the world, with an impressive client roster, from the likes of  Toyota and Guinness to Visa and ASDA. Due to their creative output and impressive graduate schemes, I also placed them in the top 5, of best ad agencies to work for. Having previously also worker as a Planner at iris, I figured Adam would be able to provide a great amount of insight and advice about how to become an advertising Planner and how best to wangle your way into the ad industry.

1. Briefly explain your day to day role.

I work solely on Ariel, working on their digital strategy across Western Europe as well as their brand campaign for next year. It’s very different from my last role, where I worked across a whole load of different clients like Sony Mobile, Durex, Britvic and Speedo. But I’ve found what this focus gives you though, is a real depth of understanding, in terms of both the category and the client.

2. How did you get to where you are now?

Chance…creativity maybe? I actually got offered a job as a ‘market maker’ after Uni, but by the time I got the call from HR I’d already signed up to do something else. For the next two years I played Poker for a living (great fun) and got involved with two web start ups, which I learnt a lot from.

Eventually I decided I wanted more stability and more people to work with everyday. I also wanted something offered a blend of business, creativity and lifestyle. I was too lazy to apply for Grad schemes, so I posted Kit Kats with wrappers that read: ‘whayhaveigotthis.com’ on them. I built a microsite which just had a picture of me holding a homeless sign saying “now you’ve had your break, please give me mine” and sent it to 50-60 agencies (I didn’t know who they were at the time). I think 16 got back to me, so I got my first job through that and my subsequent job at iris indirectly too. Makes me feel a bit nauseous talking about it now, but it did the job at the time.

After three years I wanted to work in a more traditional agency, to learn some more fundamental Planning skills. So here I am.

3. What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting to where you are now?

Definitely getting peoples attention when you’re trying to get a foot in the door. Thankfully I managed to overcome that with the Kit Kat thing, but that’s the trick to it. Be creative and stand out, make them look and remember you.

4. What would you say Saatchi & Saatchi look for from future Planners?

I’d say people that see the world a little differently… People who are good at listening and who don’t use marketing speak. Who talk about people as people, not consumers. Someone who uses analogies and are good story-tellers, who show me something I haven’t seen before, something original. People who have done or are doing interesting things with their life. People who are open to learning from anybody. People who don’t particularly like advertising, but are more interested in helping brands do things for and with people.

If you can’t tell a great story as a Planner, you’ll never be able to bring the important people on a journey with you.

5. What advice would you give to budding Planners?

Have a diverse range of inspiration.Read The Sun one day, The Guardian the next. Follow a bunch of blogs. Follow whatever interests you; advertising, digital stuff, robots, film, fashion, travel, music, sport. psychology, meme blogs, whatever. Make it yours. Tag stuff and search it when you’re working on a brief. Work on your story-telling. If you can’t tell a great story as a Planner, you’ll never be able to bring the important people on a journey with you.

6. What steps would you recommend to becoming a Planner?

Basically see above… Read stuff. Be an individual. Don’t drink the agency coolade.

Do something a bit different to get noticed by a Planning Director. Read their blog. Send them your perspective on something. Be brave.

Find a good recruiter. Not a yappy 24 year old chasing commission. Find a wiley fox who knows the industry (I know a couple if you want their details).

Also, be prepared to work in a non-planning role for six months to a year, just to get to grips with how things work. There’s no shame in that.

7. What has been your career highlight so far?

Hah! Probably winning a global pitch for Durex without presenting any creative work. That took some doing.