Ever felt like your office is full of tools? Ever wondered if you were one? Ever wanted to get less tooly and better at planning? Look, there's lots of advertising books out there, and they're usually for creatives, unless they're all account all the time. Very few books are bite-sized planning advice, approved by creatives. In fact, I think there's just one, and this one is it.
Look, you can only get so far with a fake British accent. You better pick this book up if you're interested in planning or just want a refresher reminder on how it should really be™. Or maybe, just maybe pick it up because you're an eternally curious person, and you really want to know what a planner does.
Several years ago, I was working for big agency on a major home improvement retail brand and one night, while we were out having dinner with our Clients, we ended up playing a game called: "What kind of tool are you?"
The account director, it was determined, was a hedge trimmer. The Account Supervisor was a weedwacker. The Clients described one of their own as a sledgehammer. But when it came time to describe me, the Account Planner, no one was quite sure what to compare me to. Eventually, after much debate, it was decided by a group consensus that I was the equivalent of some mysterious and somewhat complicated 19th century tool that looked impressive, but that left you wondering what exactly its purpose was and how to use it.
This wasn't the first time I'd heard of people's confusion regarding the role of account planning. From Clients to Account Directors to Creatives to Planners themselves, there's a great deal of mystery surrounding the profession . Perhaps it's because even the people who work in Account Planning have ni single standardized definition. If you ask ten different Planners about the role and responsibilities of Account Planning, chances are you'll get ten different answers. The truth is most Planners have zig-zagged their way across a number of professions - journalism, design, theatre, comedy, film - and and one way or another, they just ended up in the business.
So what is it exactly that planners do? How do we find those hidden insights lurking in the corners of human psychology and human behavior and turn them into something actionable? That's what this book is all about. Because at the end of the day, planning isn't that mysterious. It's a very specific set of skills, with compassion and curiosity at it's core. At its most basic, panning is the craft of storytelling. And as great storytellers know, with enough practice and enough refinement, it's a craft that can be raised to a level of art.
That said, this book isn't about the art or theory of Account Planning. It isn't about how account planning should work in an idealized world. It's a practical guide that gives you a behind-the-scenes perspective of what Planning is all about, with plenty of real-world examples, so that you can see how ads, campaigns, and brands get built on a day-to-day basis.
A sample, from the chapter "The Kickoff Call,"
Here's a typical situation. At around 10 a.m., you get a meeting request in your inbox from an Account Manager about a kickoff call with a Client you've never heard of. All you know is that it's a fast moving project and the meeting will take place in a couple hours via conference call. If you're lucky, the meeting request will have a one-line synopsis of the project you'll be working on. Chances are though, it'll just be a meeting request with the subject heading "New Project Kickoff Call."
As a Planner, this is one of the challenges you'll face on regular basis. That's because some Clients view their ad agency as a place that produces the ads rather than as a genuine business partner to be included in the decision making process early on. Unfortunately Clients don't always think about the Planners at the agency who can provide valuable strategic input. They think about the agency as the place that comes up with the creative output. In other words, advertising agencies are typically downstream from where the real decision-making takes place.
This means while you were doing "plannerly" things like reading magazine articles and eMarketer reports about the latest trends in consumer behavior and social media, your Clients were having important meetings back at headquarters, singing off on budgets and making decisions about what their next communications effort or advertising campaign is going to be. It might be a 100 year anniversary video for the annual convention or it might be a new product launch. Either way, Clients you're about to talk to over the phone have already started talking about what the campaign might look like or who they think the celebrity spokesperson should be.
Your job during that thirty minute kickoff is to figure out what the project is all about and what questions you need to ask to help make the creative brief that much smarter and more insightful.