Agency planning break-aways: what’s the strategic need?

Agency planning break-aways: what’s the strategic need?

According to Campaign, March 08/21, ‘Free from Agency Chains’ there has been a ‘wave of consultancies set up by high profile agency planners’. Why?

Well, maybe three reasons in the main. The first is because they are frustrated and see their role as ‘very unfulfilling’ as they feel pushed by the agencies that they work for to drive to the profitable needs of the advertising end product.

Second, because they don’t feel that their ex-employer agencies charged enough (or at all) for planning, which they feel is a valuable skill in its own right, compared to, say, the kind of prices that would be commanded by top management consultants.

And third, one assumes, that they see this as an opportunity for personal business gain. One should say, of course, that independent planning consultancies are not a totally new invention.

The strange thing is, having been an independent integrated agency owner I don’t recognise some of this as being the case.

Since the ‘integrated’ movement was born many years ago, independent agencies, which tend to be smaller than those which are seeing the ‘planning break-aways’ (AMV BBDO, WPP, etc), the whole notion of any prescribed creative output was never on the agenda.

It matters little what agency a planner works for. Clients surely have the right to expect sound business development advice. Would an agency instruct its planners to provide ‘bad advice’ based on what is the most financially beneficial route for the agency? I sincerely hope not! But is this the inference!

One may ask how broad the remit should be of an agency planner. In the past and as a result of some deep dive customer research, one of our planning recommendations to a sizeable leisure client was to put more money into a buildings refurbishment project aimed at improving customer satisfaction and membership retention. We are not interior designers so we did not benefit directly, but what we did was to charge an appropriate amount of money for the strategic role that we had played in providing wise and totally unbiased business advice. This advice may also have included a pricing strategy or app launch or whatever most benefited our client – not just the agency.

In the Campaign article, Amelia Torode of The Fawnbrake Collective, says, ‘At agencies, I had always been taught that clients don’t pay for strategy. But what clients don’t pay for is self-serving strategy; strategy that is just creative fluffing to retrofit the ad solution.’

It may well be that the large agencies are more focused and directed to recommend a high-profile campaign on say TV, hence the ‘dissatisfaction’ levels that are reported by the ex-agency planners. They shouldn’t be. It’s disrespectful to clients and disingenuous to say the least. Their job is to do what’s right, rather than what is most profitable and/or makes them look great on the show reel.

Dino Myres-Lamptey of Barber Shop, one of the new wave of strategist come planners says ‘The new strategy consultancies are not pitching themselves against the management consultants, they are focused on the application of creativity to a business problem’.

Sounds a lot like planning in an integrated marketing agency to me, where independently minded, Smart Thinking planners are asked and expected by their bosses (and clients) to do what is right.

For a Smart Thinking fully integrated agency that puts its clients front and centre and recognises strategic planning as an essential force for good, please contact

Independent advice that you can plan on!

LAW Creative is part of Selbey Anderson.