Account planning

Current agency perspectives on an advertising enigma

Christopher E. Hackley
The University of Birmingham

To nonadvertising people it may be hard to imagine why an arcane advertising management philosophy can generate heated and often angry disagreement more than 30 years after its inception. Yet the 'philosophy' of account planning does exactly this. The label 'account planning' normally refers to a strategic role within agency account teams and also, more broadly, to a 'philosophy' of advertising development. Put simply, the role involves distilling insights from research and integrating them into the creative development of advertising and brand communications strategies (Meyers, 1986; West and Ford, 2001). The account planner is known as the 'voice of the consumer' (Pollitt, 1979) within the account team and is the expert at interpreting qualitative consumer research data. The account planning philosophy involves instilling an ethos of advertising effectiveness founded on consumer insights throughout the agency. As an 'ethos,' account planning is more than a creative technique. It is seen as a powerful way of distinguishing agencies and generating new business (Jay Chiat, quoted in Steel, 1998).