22 . 6 . 18

Planning: the big five-o

On the 28th October this year it will be 50 years since J Walter Thompson (JWT) opened its doors to its first ever Account Planning department.

To this day they hold the title of being the first agency to establish the role of Planner.

Boase Massimi Pollitt (BMP, now DBB) were also at the forefront of planning, as Stephen King (JWT) and Stanley Pollitt (BMP) are considered the founding fathers of planning, having both begun the initial workings of consumer research and insights in their marketing departments. The discipline they developed has been reproduced by agencies all around the world, influencing processes and people still to this day.

But what exactly is planning?

Unlike other areas of advertising, it is rather challenging to explain what planning is, and only a minority of people outside the field actually understand what a planner does day to day. To add to this challenge, everyone who works in planning seems to have a different way of approaching it; making it even more perplexing to explain!

An event earlier this year hosted by APG (The home for Planners & Strategists) discussed some of the disciplines that contribute to being a planner; roles such as ‘The Trendspotter’, ‘The Mathematician’ and ‘The Enthnographer’ were all cited as research roles for planners. – Just a small sample to show the diversity of skills a planner can portray in their human-centric approach to gathering insight.

This is what makes planning so intriguing. There is no one correct answer or a certain way of doing it. In short, planners have an understanding of audiences through their research expertise, as well as having an art of getting inside the customer’s mind. All to support the potential ideas of creative minds hard at work.

A brief history of planning

In order to understand about anything, it’s essential to learn from successful examples of the past:

Smash Martians, 1973

In the early days of planning at BMP, one of their techniques to gather audience insights was projecting ideas using still projectors to the wonderful British public walking past their agency. In all honesty it probably wasn’t the most ideal example of gathering information of target audiences but it was a start.

BMP then took a giant leap in developing an animatic. This meant BMP planners could go all around the country with clips of ads to show people who were more representative of the actual target audiences, rather than those walking past their Soho agency. These planners would carry a suitcase containing a Phillips video machine and a large TV monitor. It was once said by Stanley Pollitt this was the reasoning there were no female planners at BMP – they weren’t strong enough to do the job!

One early example of this process of the animatic was for Smash. For those too young to remember Smash, it was Cadbury’s version of instant potato. Delicious as it sounds (…) it was reasonably successful. One of their typical adverts was based around the dramatisation of how real the product tasted, with people in the advert not realising it was made from dried potato instead of the fresh vegetable.

BMP took this ad and did copious amounts of research using their animatic. They knew from their research that they needed to create a campaign which was based on the idea of somebody who had never seen a potato before. As the worlds fourth-largest food group, and a vegetable particularly easily recognised in Cadbury’s target geographies of the United Kingdom and Ireland, this was hard. So, BMP developed their idea of ‘the Martians’.

The Martians were added to their research testing as a bit of a joke but proved to be so successful it cruised through research untouched. Stanley Pollitt, on first viewing it, had apparently refused to take it to Cadbury’s to present, and, whilst Cadbury preferred the other ideas, they were researched alongside the Martians and they had no choice but to agree to the joke concept.

The target audience loved the humour and pure madness of this advert. They were bored of competitors going on and on about the quality of ingredients. The other animatics stood no chance – Martians had taken hold of advertising.

The Honey Monster, 1976

Sales weren’t initially great when Quaker first moved Sugar Puffs to BMP. Their recent advertising had involved Noel Edmonds talking about the goodness Sugar Puffs for kid and mums weren’t convinced – they were puffed wheat coated in an abundance of sugar, who were they kidding?!

After analysing the market, planners from BMP suggested that, to help appeal to mums, the brand should concentrate on the honey characteristic as a good form of sugar and that the campaign should be targeting, not just mums, but kids as well. It was noted from insight sessions that a lot of the mothers were referring to their kids as ‘little monsters’ – this interested the late John Webster (the former Creative Director of BMP) who had never heard the term before. This formed the idea of ‘monsters’ who were desperate to eat Sugar Puffs. However, the first animatic portrayed the monsters as child sized and it was not well received – neither the kids or mums liked it. The children said monsters are meant to be huge and crash through walls and smash windows, whilst the mums saw the monster as a bad role model – and even reminded them of a naughty child. Listening to the feedback, John Webster concluded they should simply make the monster massive – morphing the monster from a destructive-bad character to endearingly-clumsy one.

In Quaker’s first 40 second ad ‘honey’ was mentioned eight times and sales went up instantly. Honey Monster collectable cards filled playgrounds, Honey Monster cuddly toys became part of the family and the Honey Monster became one of the greatest successes in advertising history.

Planning at twentysix

Understanding our customer’s behaviour is paramount to changing their behaviour.

The most important thing to a planner is the voice of the consumer. Here at twentysix we take time to learn more about our consumers; ultimately allowing us to become specialists in knowing what drives their motivation – both online and offline.

Within the agency, insights and planning is a relatively new area, however, it has become the fuel which now begins any client journey with us. Our Chief Strategy Officer, Richard Jones, is a big believer in the human-centric approach to advertising, encouraging us not to forget the actual meaning of our role as marketers.

Our approach to planning is gathering consumer insights that stimulate creative ideas which are then implemented into strategy, to develop award-winning campaign ideas.

A little bit about our process

  • Target audience insight: one of the most important things to us is understanding our clients’ customers. Using primary research techniques, we gather first-hand insights from your target audience and, from this, generate personas. This means we get a better understanding of the challenges they face and how we can help to overcome them.
  • Market and technology trends: through reading research, newspapers and just having a general interest we have developed market and technology trends for numerous industries and sectors.
  • Getting curious: is now part of the everyday and all this allows our clients to have a greater understanding of the market they sit in, who their audience are and what makes their consumers tick in the digital world we live in.
  • Using a range of tools, products and methods: from reliable third-party consumer data to sourcing our own through market research techniques (including our in-house biometrics lab), we have taken our knowledge on client’s consumers to the next level.

We may not have 50 years of account planning behind us but keep a close eye on how this area at twentysix develops – we can’t wait to see where it’ll take us!

If you’d like to better understand you market and audience, talk to one of our User Experience team.

Photo: Infinity Productions


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