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.

  • http://

    Big picture is absolutely right, the point about brand planning for me is that it is a discipline within planning and not the be all and end all of planning. Nothing more or less than media planning, data planning, communications planning etc.

    Importantly the original planning function’s vision needs the distinct abilities of these other disciplines to add value to a brief a client and a brand.

  • http://

    Frankly if I wasn’t being at least partly judged on the creative output I’d be worried. Sure we aren’t going to write as good an ad as great creatives; but if we haven’t done everything possible to help them go in the right direction then we should be disappointed in ourselves.

  • If we use a football analogy, is the manager the planner or the CD? Could you put the gifted likes of Beckham, Rooney , Ferdinand & Co on a pitch without any direction from a Ferguson and they’d be as brilliant as they can be? The Sir Alex’s of this world see stuff even the gifted can’t see. That’s a gift in itself. Great football wins regardless of the badge on the shirts.

  • http://
  • http://

    Perhaps its like being a rally co-driver. You wouldn’t claim to be as good in a car, but by providing directions you make the best drivers even quicker.

  • http://

    Hi Rob,
    I use rally driver and navigator as an analogy.
    I also use air-force pilot and navigator.
    The pilot’s in charge of the plane, the navigator’s in charge of the mission.
    Generally I’ve found, if everyone thinks creatively about all areas everywhere, including each other’s, it becomes like the Dutch ‘total football’ concept.
    You never know where the goal is coming from. Creatively speaking.

  • http://

    I think it was John Steele who said that a great brief isn’t a great brief until great advertising comes from it. (And it should be revised until great advertising does come.)I’ve always thought that was what planners should judge themselves on. A bit like the navigator analogy.

  • After last night’s Man U game, my reference to Ferguson in my football analogy is a bit shaky. Ah well. Keep thinking Bob.

  • http://
  • http://

    Hi Dave,

    This is a “triple bloggy”. Just read all the associated posts!

    I actually witnessed Fergie one night talking to one of his cronies during a football match and they caught him on the TV camera. The words I read on his lips were “Get another five minutes off the ref”. I remember they got a goal in the last minute. Six minutes were added, and it was way over the extra time for the game. I think it might have been against Man City. Is that an example of Fergie’s planning to win? He’s always getting goals in the last five minutes.

  • http://

    this was so interesting, then it turned into football – men 😉

  • http://

    I love the idea of getting everyone on board. I would always personally engage the receptionists and p.a’s too. Basically anyone that had a brain cell, even if some thought those brain cells were dimly lit. Ideas can come from anywhere, the skill is recognising them, as you so rightly put.

  • http://

    Tyson would be a great planner. “Everyone has a strategy until they get hit.”.

  • http://

    Absolutely John. Great line.