98% Pure Potato by John Griffiths & Tracey Follows. Was it pure genius? Or 98% Rotten Tomatoes?
Here's my review:
The curiously-titled '98% Pure Potato' is the history of the origins of advertising account planning, taking us from the beginnings in the mid-60s in the UK up to 1980. In addition, the authors take a look at the 'state of the art' of planning today, and a glimpse into the future. I started my career in advertising in the 80s, so many of the contributors to this book were known to me by name if not in person.
The book starts with some scene-setting - the context of the advertising industry in the 60s as well as the social and cultural background of the time. Next, the creative leap in thinking about advertising and its effectiveness (less about what message/s we put in and more about how people respond) that inspired the birth of planning at the agencies BMP (under Stanley Pollitt, pictured above) and JWT (under Stephen King) is introduced. The bulk of the book is about the first planners and the contribution they made at those agencies in the late 60s and 70s. Finally, changes and developments in planning since 1980 are discussed.
It seems fitting to the topic that the research for the book was qualitative in nature - the authors conducted depth interviews with a number of those early planners as well as friends, family and associates. In addition, the theme of collaboration carries through into the way the book was published, via crowd-funding and Unbound. The tone is very different to most business books - informal, anecdotal, reflecting those early planners who 'made it up as they went along.' The over-riding feeling about account planning that comes through is that it's about a mindset, not a process, and it all starts with people, not with data points.
While I appreciate that the authors didn't aim for a LinkedIn-style '10 Lessons We Can Learn From Planning Pioneers' approach, the anecdotal nature of the book means that it is very wordy - at 350 pages plus. I did sense rather a lot of repetition, and I felt that the text could have benefitted from further editing. Perhaps a few more specific examples of contributions to individual commercials and campaigns would also have been of interest.
It was good to see the photos of some of the cast, and the book token and book mark from Unbound were a nice touch. A round of applause to the authors and contributors for bringing all these fascinating anecdotes together.
In praise of passive planning
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