A Clients view of account planning – Stephen Woodward paper

Here is Stephen Woodwards paper. Please read it! : Planning A client perspective Stephen Woodward

Paul Masson UK advertising a 1980s success

Stephen Woodward talking about the Paul Masson campaign

He mentions the Paul Masson campaign in the paper and I have been hunting around to see if some kind person has uploaded one of the ads onto youtube. No sign so far. I assume what he is referring to is the Ian Carmichael campaign which won all sorts of plaudits at the time.  It was probably the most famous piece of advertising which Seagrams was responsible for. At the time French wine was dominant. There had been a longstanding campaign using Orson Welles in the USA who as a bon viveur and the possessor of a wonderful voice made a suitable advocate for why you should drink American wine.  And why not just run an international campaign worldwide using Welles as your cultured American spokesperson? The UK agency was Abbot Mead and Vickers who recruited Ian Carmichael as the ambassador for the wine – he would close every commercial with the understated line – Paul Masson they’re really jolly good. The campaign used a jobbing posh actor who was also well known for playing Lord Peter Wimsey  the fictional detective in the Dorothy Sayers series.  The hugely effective campaign persuaded people to pay a premium for a foreign wine which wasn’t French – and used British understatedness to do it.  Woodward claims that Paul Masson wouldn’t have a 90% share of Californian wine in the UK “without the full and uninhibited input of account planning”.  The planner involved was Leslie Butterfield who won an IPA effectiveness award for it in 1984 and chaired the APG 1983 conference from which all these papers came! Leslie is one of our interviewees in 98% Pure Potato  (had to get that in..)
Thanks to Stephen Woodward and Leslie Butterfield for mailing me to fill in some of these gaps!

Planning papers include triangles from time to time and this paper is no exception: the contribution planning makes to improved communications between account team  and the creatives and between agency and client on top of the improvement to advertiser and consumer communications. And how planning facilitates better input from the client who is more than just an approver of work which they have commissioned.  The planner has as much of a remit to understand the culture of the client organisation and the sacred cows and norms which global companies need to have in order to prevent their operations descending into chaos.  Not to be blindly adhered to but intelligently engaged with. Planning needs to understand client needs as much as those of the consumer.

He goes into some detail about the ways in which planning needs to be adaptive not only to the client but to different agency cultures.  Agencies where account handlers trot back and forth from the client offices running the business with more chemistry than substance. Or the creative guru who doesn’t welcome another layer of accountability. So a single ad is presented as an ultimatum – the final solution. Or 6 alternatives are presented without conviction.  He also mentions agencies with rebadged research departments who hide behind methodologies or who wait to be asked to solve a problem. All of these are potentially threatened by planners doing their job properly and when the planner does so there is a tangible improvement in the relevance of the advertising that the agency produces.

The next area Woodward covers (and this really is highly relevant to low margin overworked agencies today) is what he calls Dip in Dip out planning. Where planning is used for strategy but not after. Or where planning is used for development research and pretesting but then ducks out again. And he warns that major errors can be made because the planning isn’t involved continuously right through the execution of the campaign and its evaluation.

Planners should be continually involved in a client’s business

gerald zaltmanSo he lays out his stall that planning should work alongside account management and be involved with the client continuously across every aspect of the marketing mix. If that role doesn’t seem too broad he counters by saying that the role of the planner is as an advertising specialist and not some kind of superannuated marketing person in the agency.    You have to understand where the client is coming from. But you must also understand aspects of their own business which they do not understand. This may be the case where the client’s structures lock into the trade but they may have little or no contact with their end customers.

And he returns to the theme that planners have to understand the business objectives of the client and not just the brand communication objectives.

That planners need to be masters of a whole range of techniques either to challenge ones which are not helpful or to work with those which the corporation may impose by fiat.

And the planner needs to be sensitive to how the market may be evolving when the client may be in danger of trying to perpetuate the status quo.

He makes a final plea that planners involve themselves in PR, promotions and sponsorship to ensure consistency. And the paper has two alternative endings – I shall leave it to you to decide which you prefer.

I am mindful that in summarising it as I have done that some will use this summary as a substitute for reading the paper – I would urge you to read the paper in full. What this paper reminds me of is that quotation by the neuro researcher Zaltman that a market is an interaction between the conscious and unconscious assumptions of a client and those of the customers. Zaltman’s claim is that a canny researcher can disentangle this. I would argue following Woodward’s line that planning can make a unique contribution to doing this when working continually on a client’s business.  Classic paper – enjoy!


Designed by Matthew Pattman