Have Account Planners Been Reduced To ‘Mere Mortals’?

More obnoxious hyperbole from Ad Age as it examines the future of account planning:

Not long ago, planners were the undisputed rock stars of the agency business. But they’re now mere mortals in “the middle of the maelstrom of everything going on — what communication, what media, how to compete and how to become versed in multimedia,” said Edward Cotton, director-strategy, for Influx Insights, a unit of Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, Sausalito, Calif.
Not to mention that they are increasingly finding themselves on teams with other disciplines of, yes, planners. Media planners, connection planners, trans-media planners, channel planners, directors of user experience. “How do you [prepare a] brief if there’s 10 on a team?” Mr. Cotton asked.

“Undisputed rock stars”? Please. Account Planning is important, but Ad Age loves to pump and dump whatever’s trendy. I thought CMOs like Julie Roehm were the undisputed rock stars. But as I’ve said before, in advertising, there are no rock stars.
By the way, I’ll be hanging with the rock stars-turned-mere mortals at the 4A’s Account Planning Conference in San Diego next week, and then driving north on vacation. If you’re going to be at the conference, email me at dgoldg@mindspring.com and let’s get a drink.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. The ‘rock star’ label is a misnomer.
    The rock stars of any situation – like real rock stars – are usually the people who deliver, who bring it to the masses with their own unique, creative spin. There can be songwriters, back up musicians, roadies, managers, stagecrew, lighting techs, etc that are incredibly important and indispensible… but in the end, it’s only the talent that executes and can bring it alive that ends up being the rock star.

  2. Brendon says:

    I was taught that planners should inspire great creative by being anything but…
    Do the research, get the insights…give it to the creatives, and watch them make something beautiful. Its the work that should be the rockstar. In the end, does it really matter where the idea came from?
    See you in San Diego!

  3. Let’s all face it: the executions come from the creatives and SO DOES THE INSIGHT.
    Sorry, guys. But it’s the word “Planner” that’s the misnomer.
    Look at the great campaigns from Got Milk (Sorry, Jon. Everyone knows Chuck McBride wrote that and Goodby forced it through.) to Just Do It to Truth to BMW Films to the latest crop of big ideas awarded from Beta-7 to Rainier to Echo Graffiti to Subservient chicken to elfyourself to gamekillers to all the skittles work:
    None of them were polished ideas that came from planners.
    The ideas came from creatives.
    Did planners help sell them? Maybe. But that’s just because account people have become glorified secretaries.
    Jay Chiat was right: Planners were and are nothing more than a magnificent way to win business by convincing marketers there’s a specific “process” to making ads.
    Of course, there is no such thing.
    Unfortunately for planners (with their very real mortgages, kids in college and partnerships) agencies who didn’t realize it was all bogus from the start are figuring out the scam. And the clients are starting to figure it out, too.
    Coming up with the next hot buzzword might get you a book deal, though.
    My .02: Planners exist now to sell work.
    Come on guys. Shut up and Just Do It.

  4. Heather says:

    Well, I sure could use a few rock stars right now.  If you, or anyone you may know, is interested in hearing about some high level Account Planning roles, please notify me.  I’m conducting a search for a Sr. Account Planner and a Planning Director to work for a global agency located downtown.  Heavy marcom/research/strategy.  Please feel free to contact me at:  heather@paladinstaff.com or (312) 416-1880.