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white paper Back to Basics Series: Account Planning Added value or lost opportunity SUMMARY ♦ Myth # 1. Account Planning elevates the "thinking" of account teams to higher levels ♦ Myth # 2. Planners are the "guardians of the brand."

In Canada, Account Planning, or as it is often called, Strategic Planning, is in danger of mutating into a confusing amalgam of account management, research and fantasy. If the process is to be a meaningful addition to the advertising development process - one which adds value both to the creative process and the agency bottom line - we need to take a fresh look at where the discipline came from, and where it can go to. Account planning originated in the UK in the sixties as a response to what creative directors felt was a barren research discipline that did not provide the intuitive understanding of the consumer that they needed. The phrase "account planning" or (more aptly) "creative planning" was coined, resulting

♦ Myth # 3. Planners produce magical "nuggets" and mystical "insights."

in the enhancement of the creative product through a more disciplined

♦ Myth # 4. Account Planning is about "outputting a creative brief"

there are five common myths about account planning that can account for

♦ Myth # 5. Planners provide "inspiration"

approach: centering the development of the creative idea on a strategic definition of the creative task - hence the "Creative Strategy" which underlies the planning process. This structure has been introduced in many agencies with greater or lesser success, and the reasons for this are likely to differ in every case. However, some of the problems experienced by agencies:

Myth # 1. Account Planning elevates the "thinking" of account teams to higher levels Implicit in this is the notion that account planning improves on activities traditionally the realm of account management, and that account managers are somehow inadequate. This demeans not only account managers, but also planning which deserves a

♦ 416.967.3337

more enduring differentiation if it is

to be established as a meaningful discipline. Planning should, bring an entirely different set of skills, responsibilities and viewpoints to the process -complementary to the role of account management. Planners should not absolve the account group of its critical role of business planning: it is the responsibility of the account team to

develop a focussed business strategy, clearly outlining business objectives, competitive landscape, etc. Account managers are trained in the marketing functions of business they are business partners of the cli-

“...this is not a linear or independent set of events. Great communicatio

ent, and representatives of the business in the agency. A useful paradigm for understanding this delineation of roles interprets the advertising process in three discreet but interwoven units: I.

n results from collaboration

Myth # 2. Planners are the "guardians of the brand." A "brand" is an abstract construct in the minds of individuals, consisting of the intersection of three "inputs": the product, the company that makes it, and the way each individual relates to these. Every discipline involved in the design, manufacture and marketing of a product is "the guardian of the brand." Planners assist by travelling through the the consumer's mind and heart, discovering what the

Account management under-

"brand" is, and understanding ways

stands the business problem and

in which it can be guided. Rather

determines what the target must

than "guardians of the brand," plan-

be persuaded to do if these ob-

ners are "brand mentors."

jectives are to be met, culminat-

ing a specific advertising "task."

Myth # 3. Planners produce magical "nuggets" and mystical "insights." Planners use a variety of tools to un-

Planning, through a singular

earth attitudes, beliefs and behav-

consumer-centric focus, deter-

iors. Planners identify salient points,


mines what the communication

combine these points and develop a

of where each

consumer to do what the busi-

at every step,

ing in a concise "Role of the Advertising" statement, incorporat-

but it also requires a clear

discipline plays takes the lead.�


should say in order to get the ness plan calls for. This culminates in the "creative brief," in whatever form it takes. III. Creative and the media groups, including digital and social media (contact planners) determine how this message will be expressed and communicated. Clearly this is not a linear or independent set of events. Great communication results from collaboration at every step, but it also requires a clear understanding of where each discipline plays takes the lead.

Protean Strategies is a Toronto based management consulting firm specializing in developing brand strategies and providing a full range of consumer research services. Since its inception in 1997, the firm has provided breakthrough strategies for leading Canadian and US brands, including General Motors, Fairmont Hotels, Canadian Tourism Commission, American Express, Dell Canada, Energizer Batteries, Unilever , Procter and Gamble, Allstate Insurance and advertising agency partners in Toronto, Calgary, New York City, Chicago , London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Shanghai. 416.967.3337 Page 2

“Planners bring together elements -human, mathematical and spiritual that, in concert, force an elegant proposition to crystallize -possibly out of the ether. Mystical? Maybe. But certainly not magical.”

point of view. But this point of view

tations, leaving open gates for crea-

is only one, and effective planners

tive exploration, and implanting

take into account those of the other

guideposts to show the way toward

disciplines as well.


Planners are like traditional

A strong planning discipline adds

"Rainmakers" who bring together en-

value to the agency by enhancing the

vironmental, human and spiritual

creative product and by nurturing an

components to make rainfall inevita-

environment that takes the commit-

ble. Planners bring together elements

ment to the consumer seriously. But

-- human, mathematical and spiritual

only by careful integration can agen-

- that, in concert, force an elegant

cies ensure the discipline does not

proposition to crystallize -- possibly

become a substitute for effective ac-

out of the ether. Mystical? Maybe.

count management or an excuse for

But certainly not magical - by com-

mediocre creative.

bining ingredients to transform ideas, planners become, in effect, brand alchemists. Myth # 4. Account Planning is about "outputting a creative brief" Often the "product" of the planning department is defined as the creative brief - but the value to the agency actually stems from the process itself, and the ability of the planner to wrap the creative department into the process, so that the output is in effect a unified understanding. This happens when the planner understands that no matter how "insightful," or "nuggety" a strategy is, it's of no value until it's absorbed into the creative psyche. Myth # 5. Planners provide "inspiration" Who knows where "inspiration" comes from, but it's probably not any single source, such as a planner. Planners define consumer frameworks within which creative can be developed -- parameters, even limi-

♦ Laurence Bernstein is the founder and managing partner of Protean Strategies/The Bay Charles Consulting Group Limited. He has been a leading proponent of the “new order of differentiation” and has written and lectured on the subject of experiential branding and intrinsic/ extrinsic research methodologies in Canada, the US and China. ♦ Laurence has held senior positions in major global agencies Saatchi and Saatchi, TBWA, Young and Rubicam. In addition he has worked on the client side with Westin Hotels and was the EVP of the Canadian Restaurant Association.

♦ Laurence attended the University Page 3

Account Planning -- added value or lost opportunity - Copy  

♦ Myth # 3. Planners produce magical "nuggets" and mystical "insights." SUMMARY ♦ Myth # 1. Account Planning elevates the "thinking" of acco...

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