How account management became my foundation for planning

Making the switch

Zayem McTear, Strategist at Lucky Generals, shares her journey from account managing to planning and how seeing planning from the outside became a key advantage point for her.

I always liked the sound of being a Planner – with very little idea of what that actually meant. Before accepting my role as an Account Executive at Lucky Generals in October 2019, I’d been told by those who’d interviewed me that I’d need to work my way up to Account Director level, to then laterally move over to Planning.

So, pursuing Account Management became my action plan for getting there. As a newcomer to the agency and to the industry, I was keen to prove myself in my new Account Management role – but I also wanted to find out more about what Planning was. I began pursuing as many chats as I could with different Planners in the agency.

Each gave me a slightly different definition of the role. “Planners are the voice of the consumer in the room”, “We form strategies for creative work that will drive change for a business”, “We try and work out what the ad should be about, and who for.” I’d been left with more questions than answers about this seemingly mysterious, multifaceted role. At that time, my exposure to Planning’s depths was still relatively limited.

Over the weeks and months, my regular chats with Matt Gainsford (then, Senior Planner at the agency) meant he had become a mentor to me, answering all my questions about Planning and advertising more generally. My competitor and market research deck for a new business pitch scored me a couple of one-to-ones with Loz Horner (Planning Partner), who helped me understand how my research would help inform the broader strategic response.

I was even able to get my hands on a final pitch deck that Andy Nairn (Founder) had pulled together for another pitch, which showed Planning in the context of the wider creative work. And yet, my role as an Account Executive taught me the most invaluable lesson I needed to understand Planning in its full form. My year spent on Yorkshire Tea gave me a comprehensive view of the individual role each department plays in creating one final output. 

It also showed me the holistic nature of the creative process; from Account Management, through to Planning, Creative and Design, Production, to Finance. I discovered each department’s impact on the creative output is incredibly different, but equally important.

Zayem McTear, Strategist at Lucky Generals

This is something that might’ve taken me longer to understand had I started as a Junior Planner, as I would’ve been confined to a very specific part of the process. For this reason, Account Management came to be an opportunity I really appreciated.

So, once the first Covid lockdown hit in March 2020 (and after a period of acclimatising to ‘working from home’ culture and then furlough), it therefore felt like an unexpected stroke of luck when the (then) Head of Planning Ruth Chadwick invited me to trial a switch-over to the department. As my responsibilities increased over time as a Planner, I was learning how to devise the thinking that would lead to a strong creative idea and shape good work.

Planning had unlocked an opportunity to be more creative. It's this which makes the role of a Planner feel distinctive and exciting, and now makes me so confident that this is the right career path for me. I’ve therefore come to realise that first seeing Planning ‘from the outside’ became a key advantage point for me.

I learned how it fit into the whole process, which helped me decide that Planning really is the part I wanted to do. In this sense, my search for the ‘right’ job wasn’t necessarily linear. Instead, it followed a pattern of department ‘trial and error’ (for want of a better phrase), which is arguably more common practice than we tend to acknowledge - and, in my view at least, a good thing about our industry.

Hear more from Zayem in IPA/Thinkbox Brand Stories on Film: 30 Years of the Channon Prize


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Last updated 01 May 2024