Why brand-planning is not as good as planning
Stephen King at JWT and Stanley Pollitt at BMP came up with the
idea of Planning at roughly the same time.
I’d only just started at BMP, and I was a junior. Stanley explained his idea to me roughly as follows. There are two polar opposites in advertising: Account Handling
and Creatives. They both have different criteria.
Account Men worry about holding onto the account and keeping
their clients happy. They worry about maximising billing and consequently
profitability for the agency.
Creatives worry about winning awards. They worry about what their peers will think of their ads more
than they worry about what the client will think.
The problem is no one’s worrying about the brand/product
we’ve been asked to advertise.
No one’s looking purely objectively at the consumer, the
competition, the opportunities in the market place, the long-term strategy. No one’s thinking dispassionately about the thing we’ve been
asked to advertise. Everyone’s involved in the detail of their own discipline. No one’s standing back and looking at the big picture.
How can we move into an area that no one else has seen? How can we take an advantage no one else has spotted yet? How can we think laterally about this? Instead, everyone’s concentrating on their own agenda.
Of course their own area is important, but it’s just part of
a much bigger whole. A whole that no one is even seeing, much less exploiting. Stanley saw an opportunity here.
He wasn’t looking to start a new discipline. He thought he’d come up with something that would give us an
advantage over other agencies. What we needed was ‘a
free-floating intellect’ that would be liberated from the mundane concerns
of the other departments.
Someone who could look almost academically, certainly objectively,
at threats and opportunities, both strategic and tactical. That was the vision for Planning. Overall big-picture objectivity, lateral thinking. Radical creativity if you like.
Sure the brand was an important part of that. But it wasn’t the whole, anymore than account handling or
creative. But somehow it’s become the whole. There’s no such thing as Planning anymore.
It was originally called Account Planning, now it’s only
ever called Brand Planning. The answer’s Brand, now what’s the question? I don’t think that’s how Stanley or Stephen King saw it. I think if they were around today they’d invent Planning.