Ahead of the AdSchool Advanced Strategic Planning course this September we caught up with some of our presenters to tell us a little about themselves and get their perspective on the course.

Presenter: Tom Donald, Head of Strategy – Re Brand Consultancy

TCC: What excites you most about working in our industry?

Tom: Working with a great team of people to solve complex problems in innovative ways. (Sounds cliched, but it’s true.) And I still get a kick out of watching the relief on clients’ faces when you deliver a simple solution — one that can be understood and executed — to a problem that was previously stumping them.

TCC: How did you get into advertising?

Tom: I stumbled into branding and advertising. I was living in NYC in the mid-1990s trying to make it as a freelance illustrator, but was failing to pay the bills. So I made the Faustian bargain of “getting paid for being creative”, and hustled my way into a job as a junior art director. Over twenty years later, having worked across advertising, design, brand consulting, and client-side, I’m still in and around marketing. Still learning, still growing, still enjoying it.

TCC: Did you always want to be a planner or did it happen by chance?

Tom: After stumbling into advertising, I stumbled again into planning. I had never heard of the discipline before working in an agency, but got lucky with timing.

Inspired by Goodby’s extraordinary success in the 1990s with Jon Steel, American agencies were building planning departments without knowing what they were doing, or who they should hire other than people with foreign accents (literally my only qualification at the time).

So moving from art director (which I loathed) to planner (which I’ve always loved) was as simple as asking the Planning Director at the time “Can I do what you do?”

TCC: Can you tell us some of the key learnings you’re hoping students in your AdSchool course will take away with them?

Tom: I’ll have added value to the students’ brains and professional development if they walk away with a solid understanding of:

  • What strategy is and what it is not
  • The difference between business strategy and brand strategy, and how the latter enables the former
  • How brand strategy should inform advertising planning
  • The differences and interrelations between marketing, advertising, and branding
  • How branding actually works including ‘blink tests’ and distinctive assets
  • The key differences between advertising planning and brand planning (they are NOT the same thing)
  • How to spot marketing hype, fads, and jargon and avoid them, rather than looking like a sucker by parroting them
  • My hard-earned and road-tested set of tools and exercises that just work, time after time
  • How to be of service to your clients and creatives

TCC: What in your opinion are the most important qualities a good planner should possess (or work towards acquiring/learning)?

Tom: Be humble. Be kind. Be useful. Listen more than you talk. Drop the (fragile) ego’s need to be ‘the smartest person in the room’. Give a shit.

About AdSchool Advanced Strategic Planning
This course is aimed at more experienced planners/ professionals (3+ years) who want to expand their skill set and their horizons and make an impact as a strategist at a senior level. It will stretch the delegates, and offers inspiration, provocation and practical application. Endorsed by the APG.