Become an advertising Planner at Wieden + Kennedy

With only four more interviews left in my series of “how to get into advertising”, I thought I’d post one last interview from one of my favourite agencies, Wieden + Kennedy. This week I spoke with Tom Lloyd about what his tips and advice are to become an advertising Planner. Take a look to see what he had to say.

Having previously worked at DDB UK for a number of years as a Planner, Tom joined Wieden + Kennedy in September 2012. Approaching his one year anniversary at the agency, I asked him some questions about how he got to where he is today and what he thinks it takes to become an advertising Planner at an agency such as Wieden + Kennedy. If you’re unfamiliar with W+K, you can check out a list I recently made of their top 5 adverts.

become an advertising planner1. What is your day to day role?

I’m a Planner, which is probably the least well-defined job in advertising, but all the more interesting for that. A Planner is broadly tasked with “strategy” – i.e how communications and various other things an agency create, help achieve objectives. I then help guide the Creative(s) accordingly. It’s a good mixture of left and right brain; logic and creativity.

The day-to-day stuff that my role entails is pretty varied. Creative reviews. Research. Presenting. Thinking. Pretending to think. Travelling to Moscow to understand Russian food. Travelling to Manchester to watch focus groups. Test driving a Lamborghini. Visiting a margarine factory. Good meetings. Bad meetings. Writing briefs. Writing manifestos. Writing emails.

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

A mixture of persistence and height… mainly height. My order of events went something like this:

Studied history. Left university. Made a list of careers. Crossed them all off, except for advertising. Decided it looked interesting. Got a job in print production to pay the bills. Made a list of all the grad schemes I could find. Applied for every one of them. Prepared hard for each. Slaved over application forms. Made a video for one featuring a stop-frame animation of a man made up of logos. Instantly regretted making the video. Got a few knock-backs. A couple of nearlies. Then eventually an offer. Joined DDB. Had a great three years there. Left to join Wieden’s and here I am.

3. What was the biggest challenge you faced early on?

There are very few entry-level planning jobs. I applied for everything going, prepared as much as I could and eventually managed to grab one.

“No one ever knows as much as they may seem to. Never shrink from forming your own point of view. Never close your ears to others.”

4. What do Wieden + Kennedy look for from Planners?

To become an advertising Planner they look for an interesting way of thinking about things. Hobbies, perspectives and passions outside of advertising. Being someone who is good to have around and be around. A greater interest in creative work than the process of how you get there. A complete absence of dogma about the ‘right’ way to go about planning. A love of visuals, music, films and strategy. All combined with a healthy mix of enthusiasm and scepticism.

5. What advice would you give to budding Planners?

No one ever knows as much as they may seem to. Never shrink from forming your own point of view. Never close your ears to others.

6. What steps would you recommend to become an advertising Planner?

Contact anyone you know in an agency. Try to spend some time with them. Not for your CV, but to get a sense of what advertising is actually like. Even if you end up making a lot of tea, just being around an agency’s office is valuable. Read a couple of advertising books, for the same reason. Don’t just read advertising books though. Learn what you can about the industry, but don’t make it your life.

Degrees in advertising or marketing won’t necessarily help you get a job (unless you want to be a creative). Be proactive. Try the obvious ways in first – grad schemes – but keep an eye open for the less obvious ones too. There are more entry-level roles for Account Managers than Planners. Even if you’re dead set on planning, starting out in Account Management can often be the best approach. Be determined, but don’t be one-track. Especially when you’re starting out, it’s hard to know what you really want from a job. There will be more than one that is right for you. Be open-minded about opportunities.

7. What has been your career highlight so far?

Hard to say. It’s all a bit of a blur.