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The Full Stack “Advertising” Planner

The fragmentation of the communications landscape has created a complexity of channels, disciplines, and skill sets in the industry. Today, we have so many flavors of advertising agencies (e.g., digital, direct, PR, content, CRM, data agencies, mobile, brand, social media, innovation…) that it feels like going to a Baskin Robins store with 31 flavors to choose from.
The challenge is that the digital economy is pushing businesses to go cheaper, faster and better in this complex landscape. Companies need to prioritize velocity over perfection. Brands need to be always on to engage with consumers every day. Campaign cycles are running shorter, which makes it harder to architect a cohesive experience. On the other hand, people don’t differentiate the brand experience across channels. A bad experience it is still bad regardless of where it happens (Retail, Youtube, Facebook, Direct Mail, Call Center…) 
To reconcile the conflicting client needs of speed and specialization in a fragmented landscape, agencies and businesses need the rethink their approach to talent. To deliver the best work and customer experience, they need to move from specialists to generalists. They need full stack planners or marketers, people willing to bridge different worlds to deliver faster and more innovative solutions. 
In the ad agency world, this means planners that can bridge traditional brand planning with digital, UX, content and product development. A person who can help craft the brand story, develop a communications plan and architect the digital experience across channels. This does not mean that specialization does not matter.   Specialization is just going to be more relevant at the category level (e.g., healthcare, insurance, tourism, telecommunication…) rather than at the channel and discipline level. 
The counter argument that I normally get with this approach is that the environment is changing too fast. Therefore, you need specialists just to keep up with the technology and deliver the best work. While I get this point, I just don’t buy that people can only be good at one thing. Plus, channels are mushrooming so fast that it does not make sense to have people specialize in key channels or disciplines. If we needed one expert per channel, imagine the number of people we’d in the room to deliver on this approach and the time it would take to reach a consensus.
In summary, in today’s digital economy, brands need to innovate at a faster pace than ever to survive. They have a choice between being the disruptors or being disrupted. For brands to be nimble, they need their people to be nimble. This means exposing them to different kinds of thought and disciplines, to turn a concept into a finished product faster, cheaper and better.


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