Monday, November 24, 2014

correct planning

In 1968, Stanley Pollitt, along with Martin Boase and Gabe Massimi, started the agency Boase Massimi Pollitt.

The three of them had worked at Interpublic agency Pritchard Wood Partners.

(No relation, as far as I know, btw)

BMP emerged after the trio had un-successfully attempted to buy Pritchard Wood and started up their own agency instead.

It was while at BMP that Stanley Pollitt was able to fully form his idea of Account Planning.

Coincidentally Stephen King at JWT was having similar ideas at the same time, and the pair are recognized as the godfathers of the discipline.

Here’s Pollitt’s description of  the role of the account planner.

‘The account planner is that member of the agency's team who is the expert, through background, training, experience, and attitudes, at working with information and getting it used - not just marketing research but all the information available to help solve a client's advertising problems’.

For the ‘expert’ that Pollitt describes, his or her single most important task was to get the advertising ‘right’ and both Pollitt and King advocated an approach based less on gut feel and more on scientific foundation.

I mention this as Pollitt and King  came to mind while reading the following passage from evolutionary psychologist Stephen Pinker’s book ‘How The Mind Works’.

Pinker is making the argument for proper science vs 'pseudo' science.

He could just as easily be making the case for correct planning vs pseudo planning, such is the proliferation of ‘experts’ in the now expanded realm of quackery that passes for ‘strategy’ of some shape or form in agencies. 

(The principal skill of many of these strategists being the ability to 'find the data' that promotes their particular case and specialism.)

‘Experts are invaluable and are usually rewarded in esteem and wealth. But our reliance on experts puts temptation in their path. The experts can allude to a world of wonders — occult forces, angry gods, magical potions — that is inscrutable to mere mortals but reachable through their services.

Tribal shamans are flimflam artists who” supplement their considerable practical knowledge with stage magic, drug-induced trances, and other cheap tricks.

In a complex society, a dependence on experts leaves us even more vulnerable to quacks, from carnival snake-oil salesman to the mandarins who advise governments to adopt programs implemented by mandarins.

Good science is pedantic, expensive, and subversive. ‘ appears to have a different view of ‘pedantic’, describing it as:

'The nitpickery of the english language that drives the less detail oriented insane...often mistaken as a tool to impress others when in fact it is annoying.'

For planning to get the advertising ‘right’ this is a necessary risk.

To round off I’ve mapped Pinker’s pedantic, expensive, and subversive trifecta onto three attributes that Stanley Pollitt believed to be essential for effective account planning.

This means total agency management commitment to getting the advertising content right at all costs. This means creating effective advertising instead of focusing on maximising profits or keeping the clients happy.

The agency commits the resources to allow planners to be more than temporary role players. Account planners must be given the leeway to work with the data and research that they see fit.

It means changing some of the basic ground rules. Once consumer response becomes the most important element in making final advertising judgments, it makes many of the more conventional means of judgment sound hollow. "Conventional means" representing the affection a Creative has over an idea or the prejudice of a client that challenges research evidence.

As an interesting footnote, while poking around for some nuggets for this piece we were naturally delighted to find that aside from Pollitt’s contribution to the advancement of the ad industry, he also made a major contribution to the punk canon as his daughter –Tessa - was bass player in The Slits.

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