on 5 June 2008
I am not in any way connected to advertising, marketing or the business world. In fact, I'm a warehouse worker. However, I'm an avid reader and wanted to find out more about the advertising industry - my curiosity having been aroused by all those documentaries on BBC4.
I found this book really interesting. About how research can be flawed and how to conduct proper research. Then how the results from that research are used to form the advertising. What I most enjoyed reading about were, among other things, how to advertise an SUV vehicle that isn't that distinctive from it's rivals, or how to sell cycle helmets to kids who think that cycle helmets aren't cool - and to their parents. The most important thing that this book did for me was to describe the process of creating great advertising from it's initial inception right through to the finished product. And, as I touched on earlier, there are some great examples of very successful advertising campaigns being executed, seemingly, against great odds. I particularly enjoyed the chapter about the 'got milk?' campaign - which was responsible for increasing milk consumption in California when it had been in decline. I laughed out loud quite afew times. Infact, all of this book is written with great wit and humour. It's a joy to read and flows very easily.
Advertising is part of our culture. It's up there with art, music, the theatre and television. Whatever your views are about Western Capitalism you can't escape the fact that people like adverts, and are influenced by them despite what they say - I know that I am. So if you like culture you should read this book.
on 29 April 1999
As a strategic consultant to global consumer products companies, I was encouraged to review Steel's book. After reading it, I came to this conclusion: Any advertising firm that does not offer account planning is missing the boat. If you do not get deep into the heart and soul of the targeted consumer - how they live, their goals and aspirations, how they interact with the brand, how they interact with the brand's category, etc. - how could you possibly produce good creative? While good advertising is still sometimes produced without it (by those incredible intuitive thinkers out there), instilling account planning into all research will certainly help reduce risk and provide more confidence that you're doing the right thing.
I think all senior executives should read it, if for only this reason: A couple of years back, I consulted to a Fortune 100 consumer products company. When talk of advertising strategy arose, someone mentioned that it should take on a Seinfeld like approach. Without blinking, the President of this $billion division said, "what's Seinfeld?" Since this person had final approval on all creative, it became clear to me how out of touch some executives are with their consumers.
Steel's book is an easy and worthwhile read and I recommmend it to anyone who has any influence on advertising strategy.
on 15 June 2004
On the basis that the legendary Jeremy Bullmore's writing tends to be on brands, as much as on advertising, I have NO hesitation in deeming this the best book on advertising I have read: by a LONG way.
It is simply magnificent: compelling examples, involving, witty and (Thank God!) funny prose, and the sort of thinking that makes you realize what is great about advertising and brand planning when it's done well.
If you have any involvement in a brand, you ought to own it. If you are an advertising planner, you ought to be able to recite it.
on 3 April 1998
An oddity among ad books one that is neither a self-serving PR piece for an agency (or its principals), nor a dusty tome suitable only as an academic punishment.Jon Steel provides a comprehensive, easy-to-understand look at the fundamentals of account planning, how it can help advertising succeed, and real world examples of the process at work.Far from the last word on the subject, Steel exposes both the method's strengths and weaknesses while commenting pointedly on how little most advertising practitioners know about either art OR science.Enlightening, useful, entertaining.
on 12 June 1998
A Review: Truth, Lies and Advertising by Jon Steel. Wiley, 1998. Written and Submitted by Neal M. Burns, Department of Advertising University of Texas at Austin
What a book Jon Steel has written! It is lively, intelligent and in chapter after chapter it showcases his analytical ability as well as his commitment to finding the basis for some of the best advertising we have seen. Steel is the consummate planner and his writing reflects the thought processes and the workings of an agency that has claimed and kept the strategic high ground. It is the firm so many of us envy and the one our students want to join. Truth, Lies and Advertising is , in short, a wonderful book written by an Englishman about what may be -- or clearly was at one point in time -- the best agency in America. Steel uses his agency as a vehicle to describe the process and orientation of account planning and advertising. In that authorship lies both the many strengths and the occasional weakness of Truth, Lies and Advertising.
Steel understands the importance of relationships when he describes the nature of exploring the consumer, the brand and the societal framework in which it all takes place. In his discussion Steel recognizes the monumental contributions of Bill Bernbach and the influence his work had on the awareness of the consumer as an intelligent and sympathetic target. Steel suggests that the resulting humanity and sensitivity that Bernbach's work produced had a significant impact on the thought processes of British advertising agencies and, in fact, helped spawn a new discipline known as account planning.
The emphasis was clear: the advertising industry needed to gain insight into human nature so that it could create ads that spoke to their target and were perceived as being relevant. By recalling a brilliant little adage Steel reminds his readers that the way in which the target feels about the ad and interacts with it characterizes gre! at advertising: when baiting a trap with cheese always leave room for the mouse! The book itself reflects this principle and the reader will enjoy the sense of discovery and enlightenment that accompanies one's interaction with it. Steel's style and ready reference to key issues and personal experiences further enhance the advertising wisdom this book delivers.
In addition to the wonderful "got milk" case Steel's best moment in the book for this reader is the discipline and use he provides for the creative brief. For Steel the single purpose of making the advertising better -- of getting the advertising right -- is the potent driving force for the brief. It is not, Steel admonishes us, merely a series of questions that must be asked in a particular order or the submission of enough weighty evidence to justify a doctoral dissertation. Rather, the brief is the synthesis of the planner's works and thoughts represented in a solid fashion that -- ideally -- becomes the doorway for the creative process.
Steel's appreciation of research may appear mysterious to those less familiar with the rather doctrinaire approach of many British planners to quantitative methodology. There is even Steel's assertion that the better thought out the research plan the less valuable it's results will probably be! His reference to the Heisenberg principle is much less shocking than I believe he expects; few researchers or planners today are so unthinking as to fail to recognize that their intervention -- in a physics lab or in a focus group -- somehow alters the results in ways we may not understand.
Steel is generally hard on the usefulness of statistical measures -- and on the intellectual abilities of those who shepherd such activities. Yet he is pleased to report research results he likes --for example, when discussing the successful attainment of specific objectives in the "Got Milk?" Campaign. To the extent that Steel's views are similar to the widely held belief that advertising research fr! equently killed good creative and drove a long lasting -- if not permanent -- wedge between the researcher and the creative departments, the point is important to make from an historical perspective.
Yet, the issues we are trying to resolve call for all our resources, including personal and subjective points of view, so that we can -- as Jon Steel would have us do -- get the advertising right. There is as little room in this competitive profession for bad research as there is for bad planning. Account planning is, as Steel asserts, most likely to work best when it is a combination of many points of view. Then, the insertion of a brilliantly straight forward notion that transcends the data and takes us to a new place (e.g."got milk?", or "see what develops") is really what account planning is all about.
Steel's book is, as he says, more than a description of account planning. Yet, it is the best description of the way in which the process works that the profession has so far. In addition, the book is a wonderful tale of a time in an agency's life when the right juxtaposition of talent, brains, raw energy and empowering clients came together. The feeling the reader receives is that the pages open before them have been written by someone who loves advertising. Those who know Steel -- or have even briefly met him or heard him speak -- know that to be true.