Our precious planner titles

Every once in a while I receive emails about planner levels and how I measure them on the survey. We’re not exactly on a totem pole with each level reporting to the next.

Borrowed from @ZEDZAP on flickr

And in terms of bodies, we’re not a pyramid either. The best analogy I can think of is the Christmas Tree Topper:

Found for sale on amazon

It’s not an exact science, but I’d like to let you know what these titles mean to me.

Assistant planners – this is your first job out of school

Planner – maybe you went to a special school or had enough internships to start here, but generally you have at least 2 years of work experience.

Senior Planner – you can now manage smaller accounts with less/little supervision or you are part of a larger team and your autonomy is growing. Wide range of years. Lots of people are happy staying here. In many countries this level may actually be called planning director on their business card.

Group Planning Director – this level doesn’t exist in many countries. A GPD could be a head of planning in a smaller agency, but when an agency is large enough, the GPD manages a few accounts and the planners working on each of those accounts but still has a planning boss above.

Planning Director – this is the top. This level is ultimately responsible for all of the accounts and all of the planners. They craft the agency’s vision on strategy. They are responsible for growing and developing planners, though much of the day to day may be delegated to the other levels.

Global Planning Director – Also called Chief Strategy Officer or Executive Strategy Director, this person is responsible for the overall strategy for several offices or even an entire agency network. There are very few of these jobs.

CEO/President – You came from a planner background and went and started your own thing. Or were promoted to the top of an agency or company. You’re responsible for the whole mess.

Anyone disagree?

5 thoughts on “Our precious planner titles

  1. I’d say this structure is more fragmented (and more junior) in Brazil. Our senior planner is usually titled like a Manager and can handle big accounts, while there is a spot between the planner and the senior planner, as a Supervising Planner, who handles most basic accounts.

  2. Mss LeFevre…

    I would of done this a more subtle way if I was a bit smoother..

    thank you for the invite to connect..I wish I could add you but i dont use that Linkedin thingy at all so it would serve no meaning or add any value to you..

    you probably werent looking for value adding in the first place, but still…no fun in just being a number…

    if u wish to add/follow/interact well there is always twitter (in case you like random tweets about rap music, rants about planners/advertising and the occasional confession in the ongoing tragy-comedy that is my datinglife..)

    anyways…congrats on the survey and happy belated independence day!

  3. HKL –
    I think I already mentioned this to you at some point, but at some agencies, in between Head of Planning of an office, and Global Chief Strategy Officer level there are also two other rungs on the ladder.

    One is Regional Planning Director overseeing a few countries, a continent, or a regional grouping like EMEA or Latin America. Sometimes they even get a Regional Chief Strategy Officer title. They may have a key client responsibility across the region, in addition to stuff like new business, regional thought leadership, and helping local offices in the region on local client projects. (I currently inhabit one of these gigs.)

    The other is Global Planning Director, with responsibility for one specific big brand/client like a P&G or Coke, in partnership with a global account director and global CD – but not responsible for agency management & overall agency strategic direction.

    These jobs occur mostly in the big multinational agencies. But the relationships can get weirdly complicated because you may have a Global Planning Director on a specific client, a Regional Planning Director, and a local office Planning Director all weighing in on a project with different opinions, and none of whom directly report to each other. Which is probably why not every agency works that way, and some companies keep planning in individual offices, rather than having the additional regional/global level.

    So obviously there aren’t a ton of either one of these jobs, but there are enough of them that they’re worth considering if you’re plotting out possible planning career trajectories.


    1. So Jason – in the current survey, which level did you pick? You’re right, there are very few of these jobs. And yet they exist.

      I think perhaps next year I will use Global Planning Director as you describe – one account, global responsibility. And add Regional Planning Director and Executive Strategy Director to be more precise. But sharing the info will be tricky if the group is too small…

      Thanks for the comment!

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