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

First published in Admap July 1977, ©Warc. Published with permission of the copyright holder. Visit for more articles like this.

charles channon This is starting to get embarrassing. This is another corker of a paper.  But of course this is a handpicked collection of the best papers put out by the IPA so the quality is guaranteed.  This paper is 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. We never found out how it ended but it didn’t sound like a great success. Unless of course, he was the unfortunate picked to standardise the introduction of creative briefs which the planning department wasn’t used to doing (they had been using the T Plan) and wouldn’t have liked very much. Here’s the link  Account Planning threat or promise Charles Channon Admap July 1977 of the paper

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.  He summarises the job under 3 headings.
1/ The planning of the objectives of advertising.  Very helpful. not the planning of the advertising but what the advertising is supposed to do.

2/ the selection and evaluation of research not slavishly but using it intelligently, not least because the things you are trying to establish can’t be neatly determined by research.

3/ Making the advertising objectives and feedback (1 and 2) relevant and stimulating to the rest of the account team particularly the creatives.

What is interesting about this is that it represents an evolution of the JWT approach – the planners didn’t initially spend that much time with creatives but they did have to focus on 1/ and an evolution on the BMP approach where the department spent an awful lots of its time on 2/ and the objectives of the advertising came out of that.

Channon is also clear that to do these 3 things you need to be able to exercise your judgement about advertising too. You can’t do this just as a marketing exercise.

He goes on to talk about the difference between what planners do and what account directors do.  And then between what researchers do and what planners do. Which is where he points out how research doesn’t easily map onto advertising. Strong meat. Even accusing BMP of not being honest about how they actually use research to make decisions about advertising.

Advertising which is its own reward

He warns about overly rationalising the effects of advertising.  And the dangers of failing to effectively communicate with and motivate your own team. What good advice.  So helping to shape rather than frustrate the development of creative work.

There is also another fairly radical development. Which I don’t recall Stephen King ever talking about. Which is the development of advertising responses as ends in themselves.  Product responses as articulated in JWT’s T plan set objectives in terms of the rational, emotional and sensory outputs of the product as evidenced by the advertising. But Channon suggests that the advertising can be its own output. In other words, the advertising becomes the proposition the pay off rather than the product.  He cites Lloyds bank advertiisng (with the horse) and Guinness advertising as working in this way. The focus isn’t on the product but on the advertising itself.  And he finishes with the reminder that good advertising comes from good creatives. Good planning doesn’t of itself deliver better creative work.

And the final page is a summary of how to set the response objectives for a piece of advertising which has moved far beyond the ideas of the T Plan.  It’s a useful paper because it shows that planning thinking was not standing still but evolving as advertising with planners involved became more sophisticated.  Its not comprehensive. I would guess that Channon assumed that people knew what King thought from his papers but Channon is taking the thinking further towards the creation of advertising. Very interesting.

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