Account Planning. The Greatest Thing since…
(Photo credit: Alexander the Great. Considered by many to be the great Strategist of Ancient Times)
Let’s get this straight. We are not sure where planning is going. We define ourselves as innovators, growth catalysts, big idea people, yet we can’t understand why our empowering role is being disempowered of its core purpose under the pressure of fun execution and quick bottom line.
We witness disastrous ads and know something went awry somewhere along the process. Perhaps, admitting that a bad strategy – or the lack of it – may be the underlying cause, would be admitting it is also the most important step of that very process.
So, before rolling the red carpet for a business as endangered as the industry that harbours it, taking a closer look at history may explain why planning deserves more consideration.
It’s the greatest thing since the invention of Stratēgía.
No war would happen in the Ancient Greek world before a strategy was thoroughly laid out. From consulting the oracle of Delphi to performing songs in honour of Apollo as soldiers slowly advanced toward the enemy, those rituals had the purpose to carefully plan the approach and gain enough time to implement the right tactic.
Surprise stratagems and other deceiving plots such as forwarding in a tight formation (phalanx) while partially covering the neighbouring soldier with a large shield, were used by the most daring commanders (klemmata, or “thieves of war”). But as war became mobile and weapons more sophisticated, cities were forced to build fortified walls around the acropolis and the suburbs, in an attempt to exhaust the enemy.
If new strategies had not been sought out, all cities would have inevitably succumbed to increasingly more aggressive sieges.
It’s the greatest thing since the invention of Rhetoric.
When Cicero wrote about rhetoric in his De Oratore, he intended to suggest that the perfect orator not only should be strategic with words, but also have a deep knowledge of all areas of human life (history, law, ethics, philosophy).
His work was inspired by Plato’s Dialogues about the art of persuasion, but it’s also a departure from Socrates and Aristotle, whose theories were largely criticized for being manipulative of people’s emotions and beliefs.
Cicero was the first to realize that persuasion strategies, the way we apply them today in science, marketing, and anything in between, must draw from a wider range of disciplines to prove any topic’s trustworthiness.
It’s the greatest thing since the invention of Psychoanalysis.
If Carl Jung had not understood that archetypes are universal elements of the collective unconscious, psychoanalysis could have not progressively unlock the way we responds to symbols and clichés.
By probing into our past and forcing symbolic associations, media seized an opportunity to be more strategic with messaging – a process that McLuhan would later define “anaesthetizing” for the redundant effects on our psyche.
Since then, the advertising industry underwent a radical change in the way archetypes are used to unearth insights and plan strategies.
It’s the greatest thing since the invention of Positioning.
The day Dove decided to use the scientific proof that, unlike other highly alkaline soaps, it had a close-to-neutral PH, the industry was making a statement: “what to say” is different from “how to say it”.
Positioning had already started to take hold in the 60s, with Trout and Ries seeing the process mainly aimed at winning the first place in the mind of a consumer. Yet, brands were locked in the vicious cycle of the “me-too” approach, making the objective of being first in a category where brands are all better than others, simply unrealistic.
Changing perspective on how a brand is positioned with the goal to be different, redefined the intrinsic purpose of planning.
As planners, we plan like Greek warriors to keep brands safe; we become persuasive experts in everything to prove our point; we probe into people’s minds to see what they really want; and we teach clients how to think different from their competitors.
We are problem solvers, and ad agencies have just one big problem to solve: to reinvent themselves. If history is the key to the future, we have plenty of facts to remind us that planning, if you will, is the greatest thing since the industry can remember.
This guest post was penned by Viviana Laperchia. You can find her on LinkedIn and follow her @VivLap