An ‘Unplanning’ Alternative to the 4A’s

NEW YORK It was a disappointment to planners everywhere when, in June, the American Association of Advertising Agencies cancelled its annual Planning Conference for this year.

Or was it?

Not according to Mark Lewis, account planning director at DDB West and organizer of “Planning-ness: Get Excited and Make Things,” a two-day series of workshops and presentations starting on Oct. 16 at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

“Planning-ness came out of the fact that the 4A’s Planning Conference was cancelled due to the $800 price point and boredom with the format,” he said. “The aim of the event,” he continued, “is to give planners some hands on experience in developing some of the creative output that is informed by their work.”

Sessions include “How to Make a Documentary,” “How to Design Successful Applications,” “How to Create a Good Game” and “How to Build a Successful Web Experience,” as well as the more expected “How to Plan in the 21st Century,” “How to Market When Everyone Is a Minority” and “How to Do Connections Planning.”

Speakers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, reflecting the organizer’s desire to expose planning executives to a range of creative activity. They include David L. Brown, an Emmy Award-winning San Francisco documentary filmmaker; Nick Baum, a product manager from Google Chrome; and Ken Eklund, a game maker and Webby Award finalist.

In fact, despite the positioning as an improvement on the 4A’s annual effort, that organization was a supporter of Planning-ness. Jennifer Seidel, vice president, member services at the 4A’s, said that Planning-ness fitted neatly into the association’s strategy of doing more at a local level for planners. “Events and conferences are evolving fast. While there is still an important place for national conferences, it’s not all about 600-seat, weeklong events any more. The 4A’s will be supporting more of these initiatives going forward,” she said.

Over 150 planners from agencies including AKQA, TBWA, BBDO, Leo Burnett and Arnold are expected to attend. While it is too early to judge whether the event was seen as a success and inspired planners to do better work, Lewis said: “There is an appetite among planners for getting their hands dirty and learning skills that have a direct bearing on their work. I hope someone steals this idea and it gets done in more and more locations.”