Planning has been a child of misery in India since its inception three decades ago. Account Planning: the most misunderstood and abused word in advertising and marketing.
Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout started changing things in strategic planning and consumer targeting in advertising in early eighties. From sheer number of brand recalling exercises to salesman copy to funny jokes to lifestyle semiotics’ to UPS’s; advertising was on a superlative & superiority claim trip. Focus began to shift from manufactures to consumers. Advertising agencies needed to acquire new knowledge to stay ahead thus Account Planning was invented from the rubble’d egos of strategic thinkers or overpaid management graduates.
First animal of such kind to descend on Indian Advertising was: King “Sattar Khan”. He was the first official “Account Planner” in India. JWT than HTA was the first agency to see the future of consumerism in this country and the power, potentially people can posses in controlling brands. Thompson Plan started questioning: where are we in the market? to where are we in the mind?
This shift in thinking lead to an influx of planners in India and every agency worth its salt was in a hurry to appoint account planners and start the planning department to get this unknown advantage. This hasty turn of events lead to insecurity amongst account directors thereby confusion over the territorial powers prevailed. Hostile welcome by account guys made planners align themselves with less insecure creative guys. The cold war still continues between Planning and account guys not understanding each other roles. Mind you in 80’s agencies had many services including media planning, media buying, research both qualitative and quantitative, data analysis so on so forth. Accounts guys were like ring leaders controlling all this information and therefore by default they were the knowledge leaders or strategic thinkers.
The untimely coincidence of de-bundling of advertising services and so-called planning thinkers reduced the power of account guys. Therefore planners were never welcomed. On the other hand planners for the first time started to have a conversation with creative on the softer aspects of human beings and their behavior. This common interest bonded creative and planning together, as planning started to power creative’s with human insights, creative’s started to create brands like Taj Mahal Tea, Asian Paints, Hero Honda , Cadbury’s and Iodex’s in this country. This nexus between creative and planning produced some of the most powerful advertising in Indian history in the 90’s.
I was one of the few fortunate one’s to work with legendary planning minds like Sattar Khan, Dharen Chedda, Anand Halve, Pranesh Mishra and Rajeev Sharma. I owe most of my success to them.
But 2000’s had a very different story to unfold. As consumer insight planning became significant, cleverer creative guys started to generate and use their own insights, which marginalized planners contribution and last decade also saw creative’s taking leadership roles and therefore over ruling planners intuitive thinking. Today planners are back to the same point, as they were in late eighties not wanted whole-heartedly as creative’s feel they could generate insights.
Now the point is planners are selfless guys represent the consumers or people’s voice, which in reality no agency is interested in. Planning job is a bit like KBC every one thinks they know it.
It is unfortunate that in an era, which is termed as people’s era, has very little respect for the people who understand people. Only glimmering hope are the creative leaders and visionary marketers who can save this dying precious breed called “Account Planners”
Believe you me; Planners are creative director’s creative directors.