Random Notes From The Account Planning Conference

Being a copywriter, albeit a strategically-aware one, I’m a bit of a fish out of water here at the 4A’s Account Planning Conference. So I won’t analyze everything I’ve heard today, but I do have a few random observations I’d like to make:
If there’s one theme I heard constantly today, it’s that our industry, the media, and our world is in a permanent state of change now. Get used to it.
Apple and Starbucks are worshipped here. I’ve heard at least 3 separate presentations in which they’ve both been used as examples of great focused brands. Virgin and Target are highly thought of as well. I don’t disagree, but is there just a little bit of preaching to the choir here? I mean, I’m in a roomful of Starbucks-drinking Mac users, for the most part. If this were a convention of insurance sales reps, Apple would be a non-entity for most of them.
Al Gore and “An Inconvenient Truth” have been referenced a few times as well as an example of passionate, world-changing ideas. No mention of our current president and his single-minded messianic desire to remake the Middle East.
Gareth Kay of Modernista! and Mark Lewis of DDB San Francisco gave a great presentation of the “Seven Deadly Sins,” i.e., myths and misconceptions agencies and marketers have. But at one point, Gareth referenced Twitter and asked how many people in the room use it. Out of a room of 200 or so, maybe 3 or 4 raised their hands. No deep analysis of that, I just thought it was noteworthy.
More to come…

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. Being a strategic art director myself, I’ve come to realize that 95% of planners are completely full of shit. I’ve also come to realize that it’s a job that should be rolled back into the creative department, while research assistants are hired to mull through the research. That would easily save millions off the bottom line fee for most agencies, without many clients even realizing they were gone. Next recession maybe.

  2. But are we Mac and Starbucks acolytes because of their marketing prowess or do we like the marketing because we believe in the product? And I ask this as someone who has just recently kicked a serious Mocha habit?

  3. stanley,
    your percentage seems a little low.

  4. Thanks Danny, glad you found it OK

  5. I’m routinely astonished at the fact that our head of planning remains not only fully employed but an actual PARTNER at my agency.
    Sometimes it feels like all he does is steal money from execution for the “research” done before concepting starts to make a brief that’s just incomprehensible enough to be signed by the client.
    I’ve quoted him once, I’ll quote him again: Jay Chiat said, “Planners are the best new business scam I’ve ever seen.”
    Seems us agencies have scammed ourselves into believing there’s a “process” and “finding insight” needs to be outsourced from the creative department.
    And “Planning” is no longer even a good new business scam. Everyone and their brother has someone on staff who’s job is to have a british accent and a couple nice suits.
    The real tragedy is that planners are pushing out all the good account people from the business. AE’s are just secretaries now.

  6. planthis says:

    perhaps what is missing is experience at an agency that utilizes planning properly. jay chiat and dan weiden = brilliant. just because they made/make comments regarding planning does NOT mean that their agencies don’t embrace it and utilize it on many brands. these agencies attract very strategic creatives but they do not replace a planner on a piece of biz. ask any creative to work on research or to review all the data points that are provided by a client.
    also…how is it that a planner would be pushing out “good account people” in the biz? when done properly, they are a team that relies on each others skill set. all the great account people that i have been fortunate enough to work with don’t let anyone push them anywhere! AE’s that are “just secretaries” have made that choice for themselves. besides, no company runs without support staff!

  7. First, realize that Planning is centrally a creative task, and always has been. No amount of research can create a brand campaign – only gut interpretation of the research and an insight can. That is why you need talent.
    I have worked at all the agencies that supposedly utilize planning properly, and the truth is 50% of the time they are right and 50% of the time they are wrong. A strategic creative can and usually does solve the brief when it’s wrong. True, some planners are great, but these are the ones who should be hybrid creatives.
    A strategic, hybrid creative, coupled with a research assistant, is the best (most cost efficient) answer. Unfortunately though, most creatives are not trained that way, and the old model will continue to give way to even newer fractional disciplines that only serve to confuse.
    But planners also have blogs now to make their case to the world. Meanwhile, the creatives are too busy making ads.