Introduction to Account Planning for clients – Richard Block of SSC&B Lintas

Richard Block - head of planning Lintas LondonI have no idea how I got my hands on this document which even has Lintas colours.  Perhaps I interviewed there.  I don’t know whether 1987 was when Richard first launched the planning department – it certainly sounds is if it was something clients would know very little about so needed briefing.


Here’s the paper for you to read: Introduction to Account Planning for our Clients – Richard Block Lintas Nov 1987 Sorry its so big – shouldn’t have scanned in colour..

There is a planning profile agreed with clients which sits above creative briefs. And there is a brief format!  

This is a less dramatic paper than some of the earlier ones but it is interesting because planning is new enough for Richard to have to sell it in. Here’s what I noticed.

Firstly it is quite structured – that may seem obvious but the 3 fold division is a sign that planning is maturing and settling down into delivering specific processes.  Though the work is still conceptual. I like the way the planner is expected to dig for the deeply rooted motives as well as finding the rational (and self-rationalising) and emotional aspects of the customer’s experience.  At last there is a dedicated person in the time to do this digging. Otherwise it may not happen. The planner also needs to understand the motivational link between the customer and the brand – as we will see this is what the proposition is supposed to be about.

I am intrigued by the Planning profile which is a template which is held separately from briefs and summarises what we know about the consumer.  This will be agreed with clients but it sits about indivdidual creative briefs. Its a bit like the T plan invented by Stephen King in 1964 which for a long time was what got used with creatives instead of a creative brief .

But then we get the creative brief itself followed by the 1 page form. And the definition of the proposition as the motivational link between the product and the consumer. In other words the proposition is about motivation and relevancy and not a summation of the client’s desired message. The desired response is classic Stephen King planning. Focussing on outputs not inputs.  It is made clear that briefing is the responsibility of the entire account group not just the planner.

Qualitative groups for assessment as well as creative development 

The creative and assessment phases rely on qualitative research. Which is interesting because it shows that groups or depths were considered perfectly valid ways of checking how well a campaign had been understood. This is measurement with understanding (which is part of measurement).  A lot of quant tracking gives you a score but no clue as to whether that score is good of bad. Which is why all too often it is made comparative with other brands so are we doing better or worse than the competition based on market share and share of voice.  So qual is useful in tracking also.

The final pages explain how planners relate to clients – Block makes it clear that plannera are more consumer facing when account management is more client facing.  We even have a competitive price for a group run by a planner £700!! And planners are pitched as research specialists who can be deployed to carry out or run all sorts of research – very useful if the client doesn’t have their own research department

The justification for this extra person is the customer focus and the reduction of mistakes with the need for re-briefing.  And in the last but one page Block is bold enough to point out that advertising that only articulates what the client wants to say may talk at the consumer and not work. And here is a relatively early use of the word insight – as a window on the target audience which opens up unexpected avenues. The insight concept is quite undeveloped at this stage. Years later it turns into an industry by itself!  And he closes with the claim that account planning helps the agency to produce work that is original, relevant and effective.

Originality, relevance, and effectiveness

What we see here is a blending of the thinking from  J Walter Thompson about brands and customer response.  Together with a focus on balancing originality with relevance. A concern of BMP the other founder agency of planning.  Together with the focus on effectiveness.  Planning is expected to show how a campaign has worked as well as developing a strategy that allows advertising to work in a particular way.  10 years after IPA effectiveness has been launched effectiveness is on the agenda.

Lintas was eventually acquired by  Lowe Howard Spink. Who was then folded into Ammarati Puris.   This is a good summary of what we would today call brand planning. Very recognisable.  No indication that the commission system has largely collapsed and clients will be expected to pay for this extra person!

I think that’s all we have time for from Out of the box in 2016. back at the beginning of January to take out some more papers for you. Happy Christmas!

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