Someone in the blogosphere asked me to fill out some interview questions a while back but never posted the answers. So in a play to keep my blog alive during this busy time and because I have had a few people ask me questions about getting into planning and working abroad, I’m just going to post it my damn self.
1) You can try to learn all the account planning theory in the world but it doesn’t matter unless you have people (clients, agency team) who want to work with you.
2) The real art of planning isn’t about powerpoint it’s about building trust.
3) You have found your helpful nature to have gotten you the farthest in your career. Limiting your time in Houston could possibly have gotten you further. (not much of an ad market, but went there for love)
4) Agencies like to see young guns who are enthusiastic, have done their homework about my agency, can communicate efficiently & have personal projects to show their love but not cocky.
5) As a planner, participating in social media platforms is a planning commandment.
6) How valuable do you feel your job abroad has made you as a planner on a global level and on a domestic level if you were to return to the United States?
Well, I wouldn’t have been considered for my new job without the past two years of global experience, but DDB took a chance on me with very little international experience – only a taste with Burger King. And the way the world is headed, we all have to be global citizens even if we’re working in one market in order to learn from the best and bring the most salient ideas to our brands. So if I would return to the States this broader perspective will serve me well.
7) Do you highly recommend that young planners try their mightiest to find planning experience abroad?
If you’re young enough, you can usually pick up and go with little responsibilities (partner, mortgage, babies) holding you back. However, non-EU passport holders coming to Europe have a huge hurdle. Without 5+ years of experience we can’t give you a work permit (at least in Holland, you have to prove you couldn’t find the person to do the job in the EU). So you’ll have to find a European partner or obtain a degree in your target country or you’re stuck.
I think it’s a nice meaty goal to have for that 10-years-in-the-business mark. Take advantage of vacations to meet people and get to know the cultures. But if you can somehow make it happen when you are young, consider yourself especially lucky and definitely take the leap.
8) I know you have some online advice for working abroad, where can we find it? And where can we hear from you regularly?
9) Who are some current planning superstars that juniors should pay attention to? Who should we be on the look out for?
This is an awesome time to be coming up because there are so many good places to spend your time learning. The Plannersphere Wiki is an excellent resource and has an extensive list of planner blogs and twitter IDs. APFIND is another awesome tool that every planner should spend some time with. Post links and rate those found by others all on relevant topics. He doesn’t write much anymore, but everything Scott Karambis has written on http://artificialsimplicity.blogspot.com is worth reading. And the new(ish) planning director of W+K Amsterdam, Martin Weigel, has a great new blog: http://mweigel.typepad.com/canalside-view/
You should be on the lookout for all of the new StrawberryFrog planners of course, starting with Yuliani Setiadi (@Juliabanana), Ashly Stewart (@AshlyStewart) and Ben Culpin (@BenCulpin). And like us on Facebook to read interesting profiles of the frogs and follow what we’re up to.
10) Thoughts on planning portfolio schools?
For a real education, I recommend Academy of Art University in San Francisco. The planning program is run by Cameron Maddux who I have known for 12 years. We went to grad school together. He has the business experience and a true vision to take planning to new heights. The San Francisco community – not just adland, but tech and innovation too – are very involved with the students there. And it’s an art school so the approach is very different from a business school and much more relevant to the type of creative problem solving planners need to be trained to do.
If you are already a self-taught planner but happen to have fallen into account management or media and realize that wasn’t the right choice for you, Miami Ad School Bootcamp for Account Planners is the best. It’s relatively quick and low cost. After 12 weeks, you meet lots of planners and they kick your ass with assignments so you learn the basics. You end up with a tight little case study book that is quite impressive. But for every bootcamp class, there are probably 10 of these kind of people who then persevere and get that first planning job. There may be 15 who don’t end up as planners because they aren’t really planners in their DNA.
11) Do you feel that programs like VCU or MAS are significant enough to seal the deal on job prospects?
No – this idea that planning is in the DNA can’t be stated enough. The schools will refine what is already there, but there is something innate that says planner or not in each individual.
12) You have a day off in Amsterdam (and it’s not a day for chores). What’s it looking like? What is the schedule?
Oooh – a perfect day off in Amsterdam starts with a workout. Then grab some food and head to the Amsterdamse Bos – a huge forest 20 minutes cycle south of the city. It’s wonderful to lie under the massive trees and relax. There’s often a rowing race to watch as people cycle on the sidelines cheering for the competitors. And there’s a kid’s petting farm in the center where you can get an ice cream cone. In the evening, because my boyfriend is in the music and art scene, there are always people to meet up with at some cross dressing cocktail party or other. Or perhaps a gathering of ex-pats at someone’s flat. The energy in this city is fantastic.
13) You are soon about to start your new job as Planning Director for StrawberryFrog in Amsterdam. Indulge a little bit as to how you got here and what your soon-to-be roles/responsibilities will be looking like over there.
I will always be grateful to DDB and Tribal for importing me from America. But I was a bit naïve in taking them at their word when they said they were integrated. They are not. And I don’t believe that separate above-the-line and digital agencies are in a brand’s best interest after living in integrated agencies like Crispin and Martin. So I knew I had to leave.
It all comes back to love, city and job. I found love in Amsterdam and he’s not ready to leave here yet. Amsterdam is also the perfect city for me. (So far… I haven’t taste-tested them all.) There is still a lot of Europe I want to experience and Amsterdam is the perfect place to be based to experience Europe. So I didn’t want to leave. And with love and city locked down, that left job. But the ad community is small here. There are only about 30 international planners in town (meaning working on international/global business and working in English) and I have talked to almost all of them.
Then StrawberryFrog contacted me. I didn’t know they were back in town with new people. The people I spoke with were truly inspiring and likeminds where I could see myself thriving and helping to build a planning department where everyone would aspire to work. They were as enthused about me as I was them so everything quickly fell into place.
I will be leading a team of planners – several of which I will be hiring shortly – to work on Pampers and Emirates Airline. For Pampers, we are their digital agency partner and for Emirates we are their lead agency partner. My goal is to juggle the planning work – proactively stewarding clients, working closely with my creatives – while nurturing and developing my team of planners. I’ve taken a lot of the advice given in the 2007 edition of my planning survey to heart (all can be found on slideshare under my ID hklefevre). That year I asked people to rate the importance of various aspects of a planning director as well as to give their boss some advice. The results? Planners looking for mentorship. So I’m going to do my best to build on each individual’s unique strengths.