Book review: How not to plan - 66 ways to screw it up

A well thumbed copy that’s been around the office

A well thumbed copy that’s been around the office

Do you want to be better at your job? Not to unfairly pigeonhole you or anything.

If the answer is yes, invest a few hours reading Les Binet and Sarah Carter’s How not to plan: 66 ways to screw it up. You won’t regret it.

It’s meant to be a planning book for planning people. I disagree. This is a marketing book for marketers of all hues, a “how to” guide leading you through all stages of the process. Given that the authors show us how to guide creative development with with care and optimise advertising with nuance, I’d argue researchers will benefit from reading it most.

So much of our work takes us from project to project, client to client. The pace of the industry doesn’t exactly encourage reflection. Taking the time to elevate our perspective beyond the present, thinking about our process and craft, questioning how and why we approach our work the way we do is vital if we want to improve. How not to plan is 300 pages of this meta-level perspective.

And by God, it does it with clarity and panache. You feel the precision in the prose, as if the authors cut each word out by scalpel and pressed them into place. My overriding impression is one of hard-won wisdom carefully passed on.

It’s hard to call out highlights, but how about:

  • A journey into the very meaning of creativity. It is easy to forget creative briefs & proposition templates are merely containers for the spark that can set the fire. Communication operates beyond the linear message > response paradigm many briefs reduce it to; if drumming gorillas or surfers waiting for a wave teach us anything it’s that things don’t always need to make sense.

  • A grown-up discussion of how advertising works and the levers creatives can pull. FINALLY an exploration of the role of music in execution success.

  • The researcher’s role in decoding qual feedback: feeling out false positives, exploring how to tease apart the nuance of participant feedback when they are unable to articulate root causes.

  • A step by step guide on how to set objectives then judge both effectiveness and efficiency, exploring thorny issues like cross-media effects and last click attribution in detail.

Like it or not you and I have chosen to work in an industry which lacks an accepted evidence base. The price we pay? The chorus of charlatans and false prophets spouting poorly-conceived fly-by-night poppycock. This book is a corrective: long-term, evidence-based, expert and wise.

Katie Grundy