Rachael Quarmby, Advertising

I'm Rachael, and I'm a senior planner

Describe your job

I am a Planner, I plan things. But not as you may think. I don’t work on timings or budgets and rarely work in excel. I plan how brands can interact and communicate with their audience in the best way.

I work at a creative advertising agency where we make the adverts for different brands. My role sits between the client (who have a brief) and the creative teams (who come up with the brilliant ideas you see on TV or social media). My job is to understand the client’s need or problem and develop a strategy to help them address it.

This strategy is based on a lot of research and insight to understand the company, consumer, culture and category. This information is used to develop a recommendation on why, how and what we should do to address the brief. Ensuring it is relevant to our consumer, unique to the competition and effective for the brand.

Think of the role as a detective trying to solve a case, first investigating (researching); What happened? What’s the context? Who is involved? Why did it happen? What do we know? And most importantly what do we need to find out?

Then piecing the case together (strategy) and finally presenting the case (a creative brief). The final creative brief is shared with our creative teams who use it to make adverts that will capture the hearts and minds of our consumers.

What are the most important skills you need to do your job?

Every planner has an entirely different set of skills and experiences. Some have History degrees, others English or Marketing. Some started as Planners, others have changed careers later on. Some love to share, some love to observe. It is in fact these differences that make us unique and our work more interesting.

Whilst there may not be a pre-determined list of skills, there are a few characteristics that I believe make Planners brilliant and could make you well suited to life as a Planner.

  • You’re curious. You love to learn, constantly discover new things and search for different perspectives.

  • You’re fascinated by people. You love to people watch, you love to find out what makes people tick, understand what makes us the same and what makes us different.

  • You’re a creative thinker. You often think about solutions that aren’t immediately obvious and you think in a more innovative way.

  • You can simplify. You can take complex contexts and explain them in a clear and simple way to others.

I left school and...

I left school then I went university in Manchester, chosen for its music scene more than its Management and Marketing course. In my final year I applied for a Summer School at a creative agency and was offered my first job as an Account Executive.

I worked in Account Management at creative agencies for seven years before making the switch into Planning. Since then, I have worked in a variety of planning roles involving creative, media, innovation and digital gaining a broader understanding of the full advertising landscape.

I’m most proud of...

Halfords; give the gift that keeps on giving.

We created a brave advert that challenged all the conventions of the category and Christmas. Without any hard sales pitch, we championed what parents really wanted at Christmas – happy and healthy children. The quietly focused advert stood out amongst the Christmas chaos and amplified the pure joy of riding a bike. The advert contributed to record breaking sales and delivered joy to children and parents not just at Christmas.

Credits at this link

Before I started my career, I wish I knew…

If and when you are ever confronted with a choice. Always choose the option that makes you feel uncomfortable. It is only by going outside of our comfort zone do we grow and develop. Often, the greater the discomfort the greater the rewards.

A mistake I made which you can avoid repeating is...

Letting the voice in my head hold me back from doing what I really wanted to do.

From the minute I began working in advertising, I loved the role of Planning. As an Account Executive, I worked closely with the Planners, talked to them about their work and volunteered to help at every opportunity.

But Planners were special and expected to be the cleverest person in the room. And the skills do my current job were very different to a good Planner. Or so I thought.

It was for these reasons that I convinced myself I couldn’t do it, to stick to what I knew.

But after seven years, I made it my mission to try out planning. It was nerve-wracking but I can honestly say it was the best decision. I’ve learnt a lot, I’ve grown a lot and even on the hardest days, I have never loved my job more than I do now.

It’s never too early or too late to follow what excites and interests you. If it doesn’t work out, you will be free to try something new.

So, what’s next?

I don’t have a five-year plan. Who knows where we will be in five years’ or what jobs will exist? Instead, I focus on setting an intention for the next six to twelve months; understanding what I need to do to achieve this, what types of projects and work will help me get there. By doing this, I am able to review opportunities objectively and whether they are right for me.

Here's my: