Friday, 29 January 2016

Let your planner be your guide

Account planners and strategists do love a discussion about what they should be called and what they do. I have taken part in entire day meetings and workshops devoted to this topic. In the end, we always go back to doing what we always did, whatever our job title.

There's a book coming out soon (I hope) by John Griffiths and Tracey Follows called '98% Pure Potato: The Origins of Advertising Account Planning' which is 'the story of how account planning began, told by its pioneers.' There's a good blog post here from the authors about how the name 'Account Planner' came to be, some time in the summer of 1968 at J Walter Thompson.

Reading through that inspired me to reach for my copy of 'Pollitt on Planning' to see what Stanley Pollitt himself had to say on the subject. His idea was to bring researchers out of the backroom and assign them to particular accounts, working alongside and on equal status to the account managers. This was in contrast to being 'closeted in their own little backrooms, called at on the account man's whim, dusted down and asked to express some technical view about some unfamiliar client's problem.' The key thing here is that these new 'account planners' would be assigned to specific accounts - or brands - which they would have a responsibility for.

As to what that responsibility should be, Pollitt makes an interesting analogy: This new 'researcher' - or account man's 'conscience' - was to be the 'planner'.

And here, I think, is the essence of what planning and planners are about: doing the right thing for the brand, inspiring work that works.

The right thing for the brand - not keeping the (human) client happy, not giving the customer what they want, not winning creative awards. And not even propping up the business short-term.

Although any of these things, or a combination could be the means to an end.

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