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98% Pure Potato Hardcover – 21 Apr 2016
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From the late 1960s, advertising agency account planners helped to develop long-running advertising campaigns that went on to build well-known household brands that we still use today.
About the Author
John Griffiths has been an account planner for most of his career in agencies including JWT Manchester, FCB and CDP. He was one of the first planners to work outside a pure advertising environment in the 1990s as integrated communications came to the fore. He founded the consultancy Planning Above and Beyond and regularly writes on the web about planning and research issues.
Tracey Follows is an advertising professional with over 20 years' experience working in agencies and client-side, creating brand advertising for the likes of Cadbury's, O2, easyJet, BT, T-Mobile, Canon, and John Lewis. Tracey is the Chair of the APG (Account Planning Group) which is the industry-recognised community for advertising strategists and planners. Most recently Tracey held the position of Chief Strategy Officer at JWT, one of the two agencies credited as being the birthplace of planning, and has previously held senior positions at, or been a client of, some of the UK's most famous ad agencies including BBH, Saatchi & Saatchi, AMV, VCCP and Lowe. She also sits on the Exec of WACL (Women in Advertising and Communications London).
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They have interviewed all of the key players who were there at the beginning and managed to unearth lengthy quotes and few actual documents from a time that seems now like ancient history to me anyway. I started at JWT in 1972, and got my first interview there ( after initially being turned down) by saying that I wanted to meet Stephen King because I believed he was going to change the face of advertising. From there I moved in 1973 to the now extinct CDP who did change British advertising at least. So I knew and worked with most of the interviewees.
God knows how many thousands of hours this book must have taken to create.
So if you want or indeed need to know how account planning came into being and the authors views on what the future holds for it, and advertising as a whole, it's an absolute must read.
The book starts with some scene-setting - the context of the advertising industry in the 60s as well as the social and cultural background of the time. Next, the creative leap in thinking about advertising and its effectiveness (less about what message/s we put in and more about how people respond) that inspired the birth of planning at the agencies BMP (under Stanley Pollitt) and JWT (under Stephen King) is introduced. The bulk of the book is about the first planners and the contribution they made at those agencies in the late 60s and 70s. Finally, changes and developments in planning since 1980 are discussed.
It seems fitting to the topic that the research for the book was qualitative in nature - the authors conducted depth interviews with a number of those early planners as well as friends, family and associates. In addition, the theme of collaboration carries through into the way the book was published, via crowd-funding and Unbound. The tone is very different to most business books - informal, anecdotal, reflecting those early planners who 'made it up as they went along.' The over-riding feeling about account planning that comes through is that it's about a mindset, not a process, and it all starts with people, not with data points.
While I appreciate that the authors didn't aim for a LinkedIn-style '10 Lessons We Can Learn From Planning Pioneers' approach, the anecdotal nature of the book means that it is very wordy - at 350 pages plus. I did sense rather a lot of repetition, and I felt that the text could have benefitted from further editing. Perhaps a few more specific examples of contributions to individual commercials and campaigns would also have been of interest.
It was good to see the photos of some of the cast, and the book token and book mark from Unbound were a nice touch. A round of applause to the authors and contributors for bringing all these fascinating anecdotes together.
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