In the early 70s the business of advertising had no such thing as strategic or account planning. Making a creative strategy was obviously the purview of the account manager. In this work the Research and Development.
Department team use to help the account manager. Once the strategy was fixed, it was discussed with the client and tailored as required. If accepted by the client, it was given to the creative team, who were constrained to say that it was too difficult and had too much information to be communicated. Means by hook or crook do the job as said. In the early 1980s, account planning was imported to the United States from London. Jane Newman (founder of Merkley Newman Harty) is generally credited with being a major strength behind bringing account planning to the U.S. As originally conceived, planning represented “the voice of the consumer” in the discussion about how-to talk to the consumer, and what to say to them.
Planning swiftly became fashionable and at first most planners were researchers who transformed their title to “planner.” As a result, there was a very quantitative direction to planning. The early days of agency planning were more about whether an agency had a planning function than the advantages of having a planning function. Over time, planning became more sophisticated and true planners which were actually
opposite from the researchers became common and widespread. The role of planning evolved to a function of developing creative strategy and understanding the “brand” and its value.
A greater admiration was seen from the client side for being thoughtful on the value of their brand, the planner achieved an eminent role in the client’s eyes, and also within the agency their importance as well as accountability increased. The newly defined role of planners and their elevated importance to some clients had the de facto effect of diminishing the role of the account manager – in the industry at large. The truth is that the account manager’s role can be diminished, only if we let it and if we do that then we are doing damage to the client, to the agency and to ourselves. The role of the account manager has indeed changed. And it is up to us to make a decision if we want that change to describe our job as supervising the making of ads or taking on a bigger and I believe, more important role and that role, is to become the expert on the client’s business. The more we know about the client’s business, their product/service, their distribution systems, their targets, their objectives, their politics, and how they go to market, etc., the more value we will have and the greater contribution we can make to the agency. There are many benefits derived from knowing the client’s business, from which the key ones are:
- It can ground our foundation for why a client should pay money for good creative work
- It can create client confidence in the agency, and therefore fortify the relationship
- It can provide productive knowledge to develop positive initiatives that can generate incremental profits for the agency
- It can make you an priceless member of the client’s squad and thereby boost the client’s faithfulness to the agency and brace the security of the account
To sum up I will say this is not to say that account managers should not be active participants in strategy development. They should. But it does say that there is a gigantic, significant role that account managers can play, if they commit to it.