Out of the box thinking

the planning files out of the box

About this page

Oh not that cliche again I heard you say. Well these are a series of account planning documents that have languished in a box up in my roof since I got started in account planning in the 1980s. They represent a treasure trove of content which was doing the rounds when I was trying to get a job in advertising agencies. When you got an interview the planning head would ask you if you had read this or that paper. And if you hadn’t they would nip to the photocopier and make a copy for you. I also collected articles about account planning from trade publications at the same time because it was useful to refer to. And it gave me a familiarity with the names of the thought leaders who were writing about planning.

This is a bit of a sequel. Since 98% Pure Potato the book I have written with Tracey Follows covers interviews with the first planners from 1960 to 1980. The point of that book was to move away from published papers to first hand accounts. But the out of the box files will come from the next era and will introduce some new names to add to the names featuring in 98% Pure Potato. Click on the link if you want to buy the book.

john bartle founder account plannierPaper 14 Account planning: What does it mean and how does it affect the way the agency works? John Bartle

First published in Admap April 1980, ©Warc. Published with permission of the copyright holder. Visit www.warc.com for more articles like this.

John Bartle chaired the 1980 IPA conference about account planning. At this point only a handful of agencies had started their own departments following the lead set by J Walter Thompson and Boase Massimi Pollitt. Some agencies cynically had rebranded their research departments as planning departments and went on as before. So John articulates what a planning department actually does and how that changes the dynamics of how an agency operates. At the point of writing the paper John Bartle is head of planning at TBWA. He is very experienced not least because as a research manager at Cadburys he had been on the receiving end of account planning at BMP from day 1 and even before that.  But at the time he gave this paper Bartle Bogle Hegarty did not exist. 2 years later it did.

First here’s how to get your hands on the paper. Account Planning what it means and how it affects the agency

Next a brief commentary on the paper: his paper starts with a bit of a history lesson – useful since Bartle worked right through this. And the dramatic fall of numbers of people working in advertising agencies by some 25%. And research departments came under threat.  Ad agencies had to choose between losing their researchers or turning them into something else that could be justified.  Researchers were too peripheral to the development of advertising. Planners were at the heart of it. This wasn’t entirely welcome to the creative department or to account handling. But planners bring something that neither of them were capable of doing entirely by themselves. Which was to think objectively about how advertising worked.  And what is interesting is about John Bartle’s take is that the planner’s authority comes from the continuous analysis and interpretation of data – and he specifically mentions the limitations of data. In other words data is not to be overworked in the pursuit of selling creative work or campaign success. But the planner is to be objective about what it can and can’t do.  However, this does not reduce the planner to being an evaluation geek but someone with a distinctive point of view about how the advertising is working. And someone who can inspire creative people.  And it is because of this unique role that Bartle argues that it is far beyond what a repurposed research department can achieve.   He describes planners working with account handlers much as writers work with art directors in a complementary way. However, he is already pulling away from the BMP model that there should be a planner for every account person. That is over the top.

There follows a discussion about the internal benefits of having a data proactive person in the team. And the external benefits when working to clients. Of giving them the confidence to be more adventurous. This is not the same as deploying the planner as an intellectual sales person for the creative work.  And this shouldn’t emasculate the account man (if I may use genderised language briefly). The account handler retains the primary relationship with the client but shares the task of strategic development with the planner.

Bartle concludes by warning that rebadged researchers will not do. And account planners left to their own devices by account handlers will crash and burn. It is the creative tension when planners work closely with the rest of the team which makes the system work. He also reminds us that this is a British development. And contrasts what is happening in London with the creative barrenness of the USA where creativity was hobbled by excessive dependence on research.  Very timely since it was around this time that the Americans started to look seriously at importing planning from the UK. Within a couple of years planners on telephone number salaries were heading across the Atlantic to show the Americans how planning could be done.  Our book 98% Pure Potato (yes I am going to refer to that again!) covers how Doug Richardson attempted to take the philosophy of planning to Ogilvy’s in New York. And it was a real struggle. And how Jay Chiat after seeing how planning was being used at CDP in London tracked down Jane Newman one of the star BMP planners now working in New York and hired her. And Jon Steel a couple of years later went to Goodby Silverstein on the West coast and started a successful planning department there.
Pollitt on planning

Paper 13 How I started account planning in agencies. Stanley Pollitt

Whatever else you read about Account Planning you have to read this one. This is one of the only 3 articles we have written by Stanley Pollitt. And if you like it then I plead with you either to buy A masterclass in Brand Planning so you have your own published copy. Or track down a second-hand copy of Pollitt on Planning pictured left. It even has the link in so you can click through and get a copy.  I very much hope the APG will republish it one day. In the mean time here is the next best thing. One of the articles. The one where one of the fathers of account planning explains why he got the idea and how he implemented it.  First  here is the link to the page where you can get the paper

Paper 12 Account Planning threat or promise – what it should involve as  a separate agency function Charles Channon

charles channon This is another corker of a paper.  Written by Charles Channon who is a significant figure in the history of account planning. He was one of the first chairs of the IPA Effectiveness awards. at the time of writing, he was at Ayer Barker. But he had done a rather odd stint which we mention in 98% Pure Potato when he was drafted into J Walter Thompson to head of a creative services department which meant that he checked the quality of creative briefs but wasn’t himself part of the planning department.

Charles Channon explains the planning function, one of the earliest accounts for someone not working at one of the originating agencies. And he has a go at the agencies which have started their own planning departments with varying degrees of success.  But what he articulates well is what planners are supposed to be doing.  Here’s the link to the paper

Stephen King of JWTPaper 11 Intermedia Decisions Stephen King

Another Stephen King paper from the IPA 1981 collection. Here’s the link to the page where you can get the paper and read the commentary. Time was when account planners did their own media planning. Really. And Stephen King explains the thinking behind it.

Uploads in 2017: from Account Planning – Paper collection IPA 1981

This is a series of papers published by the IPA in 1981 to explain this new fangled account planning function.  Don Cowley writes the introduction which I will scan and upload later. This is an early attempt to provide an overview of the function. But we have the benefit of hindsight now too.

Paper 10 Why media departments are finished in advertising agencies. .. Bob Jones Boase Massimi Pollitt Sept 1968

This is a historic paper. I know I keep waxing eloquent about all of these papers but there really is a lot here.  Not a particularly long paper. There is a problem though. The date can’t possibly be right because in Sept 1968 Boase Massimi Pollitt had not yet opened its doors.  Assume that the paper is written and published some time in 1969 or 1970. That’s my guess.  Why? Because what we have here is a party political piece about the failures of media departments and how account planning (which by this time is only in 2 agencies ( Boase Massimi Pollitt and J Walter Thompson. Is going to replace the media department. If that doesn’t whet your appetite nothing else will so here without further ado is the link to the paper for you to read. It’s only 2 pages.

Paper 9 Dave Trott’s paper about how to get your first job in advertising

How to get your first job in advertising – Dave Trott (writing for copywriters and art directors)Dave Trott

Interviewing Dave Trott in 2015 for our book 98% Pure Potato he mentioned this paper How to get a job in advertising. He explained he wrote it because he got so fed up with being sent creative books full of puns. So before he would look at your book he would make you read his paper. Which would I suspect mean that most books would be taken straight off the table. Because they showed all of the foibles which Dave found so irritating.  Here’s the link to the page: How to get your first job in advertising Dave Trott


Uploads in Autumn 2016

Stephen King JWT

Paper 1

title page DeveloDASpage2

If you have come here to look for Stephen King’s paper developing advertising strategy I have moved it to its own page here. Newly scanned and uploaded papers will always start on this The out of the box page but we will build an index so you can always find them.




Jim WilliamsPaper 2  Contrasting styles is by Jim Williams and was given at the APG day conference in November 1983. The conference them was Planning Philosophy or Function? Jim’s paper is about the distinctions between planning in large and small agencies. You can find his paper on this page.  I will progressively add other papers from this conference 15 years after account planning began.



John BartlePaper 3 Planning Myopia is something of a classic – probably the best remembered planning paper issued at this time.  John Bartle whose agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty is little over a year old when he gives this paper weighs into what he sees is the complacency of planning as agencies scramble to install their own planning departments, demand far outstrips supply and planners can get away with just about anything.  There’s a useful aside that the APG membership is running at 400 by this point.

You can find John’s paper on a separate page here



Paul Masson UK advertising a 1980s successPaper 4 is by Stephen Woodward who at the time was marketing director of the drinks company Seagram.  Getting a client perspective on planning is actually quite rare so I suggest you visit the page to read his paper and my commentary there.


Paper 5: Tim Delaney and David Wright explain how Creatives and planners can work together best. Leagas Delaney founding team

Heard of Leagas Delaney? Well Tim Delaney is the founder and David Wright was the planning director who had been with the agency from Day 1. Tim is pictured with the pink halo! David Wright is the other one in a dark suit. Ron Leagas by the way is on the left.  They were still a relatively new agency when this paper was given. New enough to brag that they started their agency with no clients at all! So had a blank sheet of paper when it came to deciding how they would develop advertising.  Tim Delaney has a fearsome reputation for giving planners a hard time. But he is no less demanding of his creative teams. you can find the paper and my commentary on a separate page here.

Paper 6 David Cowan Planning Director of Boase Massimi Pollitt explains how planning works 15 years after the agency opened.

Cowan was one of the first planners ever.  So his perspective as department head and longstanding planner is very special. In this paper he explains how what planners do differs from clients, account handlers, creatives and even market researchers.  Here’s the link to the page.  This paper has far as I know has never been in the public domain and it ought to be.  You owe it to yourself to read it if you’re a planner or a strategist.

Paper 7: The Thoughts of Chairman Bert: Account planner: Prophet, Prostitute, or Pragmatist.  Terrific polemic against planning delivered in sept 1983 by an agency boss and a market researcher who didn’t like the look of account planning and told a roomful of them as much at a meeting of the Account Planning Group. Here’s the link to the page.

Paper 8: an introduction for Lintas clients on the planning function penned by the then planning director Richard Block. Which seems quite a conscious blend of the J Walter Thompson way of doing planning, and the BMP models.  Here’s the link to the page.


!– Begin MailChimp Signup Form –>

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required


Designed by Matthew Pattman