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.


Paper 15 Planning: A research director’s view  Annie Wicks

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

Another interesting piece of history.  A research department head (at McCann Erickson)  pushes back on this new fad for account planning.  I was interviewed by Annie Wicks a few years later when she was Planning Director at Geers Gross. So she took the planning shilling eventually!  But since she declares that she wouldn’t hire a planner without at least 3 years experience perhaps that is why I didn’t get the job!  I only had 18 months experience as an advertising researcher at the time.

Annie represents the demand for solid craft skills. You get a flavour of that from the Bert de Vos paper (see below) but he rejects the need for account planning at all.  Annie’s position is different. Her argument is that without the necessary research craft skills planners simply don’t know enough to be able to formulate a judgement on whether advertising is likely to be effective and whether it has performed well.  Let’s start with letting you get your hands on the paper: Annie Wicks Research Director POV

Annie makes 2 points. Firstly that researchers can and should be brought out of their silos and in with the rest of the account group. And that they are capable of integrating. And it is essential that the do so. It is foolish to expect a 22 year old with no craft skills to engage with and even challenge a marketing director who has decades of skills.  In other words there ought to be a solid basis of craft for which planners should be properly prepared and trained. You have to know the rules before you know how to go about shortcutting or breaking them.

Her second point is equally telling. She argues that the idea of a planning system does not apply to all advertising accounts and should not. So there accounts which should have constant planning input, and account where there should be occasional or limited planning input. And there are even accounts to which planning is irrelevant. The example she gives is that of the entrepreneur who has built a company by the seat of the pants.

It would seem that she is wary of what she perceives to be the pernicious influence of a planning process which itself becomes inflexible.  And another layer to be negotiated in the development of good creative work. And she is concerned that in its desire to be taken seriously that planning as mandatory runs the risk of overclaiming.  Being applied where it is neither welcome nor needed and where it may not be shown to be effective.  It is the idea of the planner being handed power without the experience and the authority to use it well. What seems to have happened over time is that planners have not had the power – they have had to make their case by dint of persuasion. But it shows how fragile the situation was where the account group could turn around and say they just didn’t feel the need to add a planner on the business. So there was a perceived need to try to ensure that a planner was always assigned whether welcome or not.

Annie also warns against the cleverness of planners. That does not mean they are right or commend them to the rest of the team. She introduces the idea of advertising intelligence which the account director or the creative teams are just as likely to possess.   And is not the unique possession of the account planner. Certainly not a young one!  As she perceives it planning comes about when all the members of the account team are contributing and planning takes place in the centre of what she calls 4 circles (she doesn’t name them – would this be research, creative, account handling and the client?)

Her parting shot is to warn against the creep of rationality. Advertising needs to be developed with heart as well as head. And she suggests that the left bunion aka instinct also has its place. And that planners need to be adept at using all of these and not settle for being the computational being in the corner of the meeting room.

Good provocative paper. Worth thinking about when there is a temptation for planners to hide behind analytics. Or worse still bluff without any depth in analytical thinking and craft skills at all.

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

John Bartle chaired the 1980 IPA conference about account planning. At this point only a handful of agencies had started their own departments. And John was head of planning at TBWA but had already worked as a client with planners at Boase Massimi Pollitt. This is his explanation of how account planning changes the dynamics in the agency.   At the time he gave this paper Bartle Bogle Hegarty did not exist. 2 years later it did.  Here’s the link to the page where the paper is

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.


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