Thursday, 18 September 2003

The future of account planning ...

This week's edition of Advertising Age includes a report on the 4A's account planning conference, held in Boca Raton, FL this past week. Over 600 people attended the conference and commiserated about what's wrong with account planning.

It appears that "with the demand for integrated campaigns, the fear is that planners are expected to be all things - experts in media, accounts, research, consumers and more." This according to reporter Claire Atkinson who filed the story.

Jeff Goodby, who addressed the conference, seemed to sum it up another way, shin gthat account planners were not sufficiently involved in the creative process. Goodby accused planners of "taking the instinct out of advertising."

Does this sound like a common complaint of a creative person?

Granted, Mr. Goodby is an outstanding creative talent and his agency is one of the very best in the world. If you've ever had the good fortune of listening to his presentation of Goodby, Silverstein's creative work and how they integrate insights from their account planners, you know this guy gets it.

But to sum it up by saying planners too often take the instinct out of advertising trivialize what's really wrong with the account planning discipline as it exists in the US today.

The problem, as I see it, is that account planning has been relegated to the role of "uber-research" - allowing the convoluted title to justify the higher hourly rate with little to no definition of the actual benefits provided by the account planner on the team. Big agencies and big clients rushed to build account planning into their groups but did little to define the role the planner played in the entire scheme.

The result, as reported by another 4A's conference attendee (Jeremy Hall of NY-based Hall & Partners), are complaints from clients who think of account planning as a luxury they can rarely afford. Again, we come down to questions about the value of the services and expertise provided by ad agencies to their clients (sound familiar?).

So, what do you think an account planner should do? E-mail me at: and let me know. Let's work on re-writing the job description and try to envision the future of this position going forward. I'll add a few of my observations from over the years and from my experiences with dozens of small and medium-sized accounts who, in my opinion, see a much greater benefit to the role of an account planner than many large marketers.

I look forward to your thoughts.


Mike Bawden
Brand Central Station

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