The evolution of Account Planning
Evolution is always the work of pioneers, and their
followers are always small in number… At a time
when so much attention is paid to the “mass”, it is
necessary to note that evolution, ultimately, is never
the expression of the mass.
–Piet Mondrian: Plastic Art and Pure Plastic Art (1937).
Quoted in Read (1964: 118)
Account planning is the greatest thing since the impressionist movement. The introduction of account planning, as a discipline, represents a fundamental change in approach and ideology to the practice of advertising. This resulting shift, mirrors the disruption of the art world during the late 19th – early 20th century, and has created a more fertile ground for idea generation and innovation.
The French art world from the last quarter of the 17th century until the latter part of the 19th century, was stifled by the traditions of the Académie de Peinture et de Scultpure. Their system of accreditation had a limited perspective on what was considered “true art”, and thus strictly regulated the access of young artists to buyers. As a result, the formal views of the school hindered true artistic experimentation. Artist would have to pander to the school’s antiquated views, to make any sort of livelihood. The Impressionist effectively disrupted this hegemony at the turn of the 19th century. This group helped to liberate the creative expression of artists and the very definition of “art”, aided by the efforts of entrepreneurial art dealers who helped them generate a market for their work (Armstrong, 2013).
The world of advertising leading up to the 1960’s was similar to the pre-impressionist French art world. The fifties on Madison Avenue were driven by ego’s and conflicting one-dimensional perspectives of advertising, such as Rosser Reeves view of advertising as “the art of getting a unique selling proposition into the heads of most people at the lowest possible cost” (Reeves, 1961). While the idea’s were easy to explain, measure, and could create effective advertising in the right hands, it led to advertising that was “brash, repetitive and single minded” (Feldwick, 2007).
The work of Stanley Politt, that lead to the creation of account planning, helped to provide a different lens through which to explore the art of advertising. A lack of a formal research role in the agency, makes idea selection wholly subjective and at the mercy of whim. The value of the account planner, beyond injecting the consumer into the heart of the work, is to galvanize creativity and innovation, by providing a foil to creative subjectivity. What this provides, in effect, is a sense of doubt, and a voice that can help to champion new idea’s in the face of ego-driven opinion.
Armstong, P. 2013 Avant-Garde: The Legacy of Paul Durand-Ruel The International Journal of Literature and Art November 1(2): 15-21
Feldwick, P. 2007. Account Planning: Its History and Significance for Ad Agencies Sage Publications
Reeves, R. 1961. Reality in Advertising Alfred A. Knopf.