Contrasting Styles Jim Williams Nov 1983 APG 1 day conference

This is a script of a presentation called Contrasting Styles given by Jim Williams who was at the time head of planning at Y&R.  The context was an Account Planning Group day conference which I think was called Account Planning Philosophy or Function? And I have more than one presentation from that event. All the speakers addressed that.

Jim WilliamsSo the first thing you need to do is to get your hands on the pdf of Jim’s script which you will find here. Constrasting styles Jim Williams nov 1983

What is interesting about this paper is that Jim Williams uses it to unpack the differences and similarities between account planning in a large agency and one in a small agency or start up. It is clear from what he says that account planning was being taken up by small agencies more so than large ones at the time.  Jim by this time has worked at 3 different agencies. Boase Massimi Pollitt where he was one of the first graduate hires to the planning department. SJIP where he was planning director for 5 years. And then at Y&R  So he has very diverse experience and is able to speak with authority about the 3 agencies and how planning worked in each.

He rejects the typology that small agencies = creative and large agencies = boring. And points out that JWT is not producing dull creative work. Jim makes no reference to the contribution of JWT planning anywhere in the paper but he doesn’t see that planning is at all antithetical to the workings of large agencies.

He argues that planning in large agencies needs more structure and that what he calls guruesque planning won’t work there.

He points out that account planning doesn’t need account planners.   And that because planning is so diverse it can’t be described as a function but a philosophy a way of thinking and working that puts the consumer at the heart of the process. Indeed he says that the account planning philosophy is about motivation not communication.  And gives Y&Rs definition of account planning.

There’s also an aside about the limitations of quantitative research for tracking – Jim actually believed that advertising should be tracked qualitatively.

A couple of additional comments. Firstly that by his own admission Jim did far more quantitative research after he left BMP. Don’t think that this means that BMP was full of quallies – however Jim was at the qualitative end of the spectrum at BMP. If you know anything about account planning you will know it represents a range of skills. Jim had been a postgrad physicist before he went to BMP so was perfectly capable of doing the numbers. And there were plenty of other planners at BMP who did a lot of number crunching David Cowan being probably the most extreme.

Secondly he references the wastefulness of the development process at BMP specifically citing the Cadburys Smash potato campaign  which took  24 scripts 16 animatics and 18 months to produce.  Clearly Jim doesn’t think this could possibly work in a large agency. So at Y&R he does things rather differently by agreeing the creative strategy before briefing creative work! He describes the BMP approach as trial and error with planners providing only the vaguest of briefs.

cover of the bookheroandoutlawYou may be wondering why I am being quite so opinionated about the paper. Well that is because I interviewed Jim Williams for the book 98% Pure Potato.  Which has lots of quotations and references to this legendary planner.  It was only at the launch event which was attended by Julia his wife and Ollie his son that I learned that Jim died in 2013.  RIP Jim.

The Brand Asset Valuator is one of Jim’s major achievements – a process for evaluating any brand against a pool of other ones. He based it on archetyping. Jim’s other great innovation was to bring in Jungian archetypes as a way of understanding brands and he applied this at the quantitative level.  But the heart of his understanding was qualitative.  On my site you can find my review of the book that came out of this archetypal thinking – called The Hero and the Outlaw written by Margaret Mark but there are some other relevant titles on this page.

I also did a blog post about Jim a couple of years ago on my Postcards from a Planner blog.

I shall pick the next paper to scan and upload in a week or so.

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