ACA recently caught up with APG Co-Chair Ben Hourahine, Strategy Partner at AnalogFolk, for a chat about his take on what 2021 holds for the Australian planning community.

ACA: What’s your perspective on the future of planning in Australia? 

Ben: Australian planners have never felt more valued then they have during the COVID crisis. “What should we do now?” Is the question every planner wants to hear and it has been an intense period of partnership between our discipline and senior agency clients for most of us. We have already seen some great work come out of the crisis and as we move into the recovery phase the value of planning should remain at a premium. Where, how and when brands invest their budgets this year could arguably be one of the most critical decisions those businesses will make this decade. The opportunity for planners is to drive that conversation, direct those brand choices and demonstrate the commercial value of their strategies. In a very short period of time we’ve gone from relative stability to unprecedented change and this is going to create a future that is full of opportunities for the planning community. In a dynamic environment like that effective strategies are critical, so the future looks good for planning and the skills we bring to the table you would hope. 

ACA: What are some of the challenges you see the discipline facing? 

Ben: The challenge is ensuring the next generation of strategists in Australia have the pathways, training and support they need to enter and progress in the field. While we can expect more demand for strategic smarts in the future, the pathways for development are changing and diversifying. We don’t necessarily have as many of those big agency planning departments as we used to have and junior planning roles in agencies do seem harder to come by. Having said that we have new training grounds like Google, Facebook and the big consultancies, which is great for broadening out the talent coming into the field. The discipline is evolving which is great, but we still need to have that sense of community and the support structures that are essential in keeping the field healthy, that is why the APG is essential in Australia. 

ACA: What’s in store for the APG in 2021? 

Ben: 2021 is going to be a big year for the APG. Last year was about resetting the foundations and reviewing everything from the ground up. We’ve formed a brilliant new committee composed of the most influential planning leaders in Australia. We’ve recreated the APG Awards as part of the AWARD Awards program which is a fantastic move and has increased entries dramatically. We’ve also taken a step back to deeply review the AdSchool strategic planning courses and have updated them with new content in an exciting new format. With these new foundations in place, next year is all about revitalising our community activity and support initiatives. We will be developing a new national and state based strategy in the new year and will be announcing some new initiatives and the return of some popular ones like Planning Idol. 

ACA: What advice do you have for young and aspiring planners? 

Ben: Hang in there, because our skills have never been more important and the future will need more great planning and planners. Right now one of the things they can do is craft some of their favourite work into an APG Creative Strategy AWARD award paper. It is a brilliant place to showcase (and practice) the craft of writing a compelling strategic story and even if you don’t win, the learning is often in the doing. The final deadline is 22 January, so it’s a great thing to get stuck into when the pace is a bit slower in the first weeks of the new year. The last thing is to keep an eye out for our new APG activity in 2021 and to get involved in the community wherever and whenever they can. The APG is here for you after all. 

Entries are open for the 42nd AWARD Awards. Final deadline for entries (incurring a fee) is 22 January 2021. Full information on