When the solution becomes the problem.

In the late 1960s Stanley Politt introduced the idea of account planning, through his agency Boase Massimi Politt. Stephen King, from JWT, has also been credited with introducing a similar concept at the same time.

They felt that the agency account managers were using research too literally and too much emphasis was being placed on numbers and not insights.

Their primary concern was that the resulting advertising was too rational and lacked an emotional link to the consumer.

This form of planning made communication simple with clear, insightful thinking and creative strategies.

The planners were the conduit between the brand and the consumer.

Their involvement in the process allowed the creatives to develop work that was connecting with the market, with insight and high levels of creativity.

This was in stark contrast to the research driven ads that were coming out of the US at the same time. This numbers driven research was all about safety rather than insight and effective communication.

Soon account planners were found in many agencies in the UK and they quickly spread worldwide.

Their fame was well justified, as the work that came from agencies with planners was more memorable and resonated better with the consumer than work that was slavishly following research findings.

The clients were happy, as there were sound, rational reasons, based on research, to go with this direction.

The research was done to develop strategy, not to have a popularity contest for a particular creative direction.

Some enduring British campaigns came from that era:

‘Heineken refreshes the parts that other beers cannot reach’

‘Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet’

Cadbury’s Smash

Even over ‘The Ditch’, in the US, Jay Chiat took up the planning cause.

Some of the great campaigns that came out of Chiat/Day:

The Energizer Bunny

Nike ‘Just do it’

Apple Computers

The process was simple, find a compelling insight that connected to the target market then dramatise it in such a way that it became memorable.

As with all simple processes there are people who are hell bent on complicating them.

That, I am afraid, is what has happened to account planning. We now have:

Brand Planning

Media Planning

Connection Planning

Propagation Planning

Transmedia Planning

All with their rules, guidelines and formulae, that have been complicated with jargon and brand babble.

What was originally developed to solve a problem has now become the problem itself.

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