Monday, September 26, 2011

What is account planning?

50 years ago, Stephen King and Stanley Pollitt founded Account Planning, a fuse between Account Management and Media Planning (hence the hybrid name). Till today, nobody could really fully define the parameters of an Account Planner still. Some planners are more data analytical, some are more campaign designers, some are just... a higher class of pencil pushers with a whole load of hot air.

Nevertheless, what I feel an Account Planner's primary role is as in the words of King - to inspire creative work. Do we really?

Well, my rough definition would be:

1) Listen to the client and diagnose the illness - at this stage, it could probably be a hypothesis until further tests are carried out
2) Carry out tests to affirm or negate hypotheses
3) Define current position and more importantly what brought us here
4) Define desired position and design a strategy on how to get us out of the current rut, to where we prefer to be
5) Hypothesize the plan and run checks to 'test' out the plan (of course, this is only possible in a very ideal situation)
6) The final plan includes - the Big Idea (or some call it strategic concept, depending how creative/serious you want your stakeholders to view you) and the broad communication strategy
7) Once the road map is set, drill down - chart the consumer journey, and match messages with media, identify responses at each communication stage. A good Big Idea should be like a glue which holds everything together
8) Put on your creative hat, mash messages with media - at this stage, innovate something - put a spark into the plan
9) Design in detail each component based on its objectives
10) Put a timeline and it will show how realistic or lofty the plan is - revise accordingly
11) Implement
12) Measure - are we where we set out to be? And what got us here?

I'm always inspired to read words of old planning gurus. King made advertising sound like... a professional industry made up of art and science - truly unique, one of its kind, complementing and contradicting - one that makes us proud of what we can produce that significantly contributes to the society, economically and sustainably.

IMHO: Account Planner or not, don't ever let go of that pride. And if you are proud to be in the ad industry, prove your worth and stop pushing pencils.

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