98% Pure Potato: The Origins of Advertising Account Planning

By John Griffiths and Tracey Follows

The story of how account planning began, told by its pioneers

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Publication date: June 2016

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Account planners are the part of advertising agencies tasked with getting inside people's heads. From the late 1960s they brought the consumer into the process of developing advertising.

Based on face-to-face interviews with 20 of the industry’s pioneers, 98% Pure Potato pieces together the real story of advertising account planning. It traces the rise of the planning discipline, and the work of the people who first forged this path: Stephen King at JWT, and Stanley Pollitt at BMP are legendary figures in the creation of advertising account planning, but they were not alone.

They helped create some of the UK’s most famous brands and brand icons; from the Andrex Puppy, to the Sugar Puffs Honey Monster, and who could forget the Smash Martians?

The book analyses the true beginnings of the discipline as told to the authors by 20 of the first ever planners, and contrasts what planning was and how it was done with the challenges and opportunities faced today.

Interviewees include Jane Newman, John Madell and Jim Williams who were the very first planners ever hired at BMP. Jane is also the person responsible for exporting planning to the United States. E.V. Jenkins, described by many of those interviewed as the best planner they had worked with, helps us understand the very beginnings of the iconic Persil, Oxo and Andrex advertising campaigns at JWT.

A little known fact is that there were lots of very senior women at the vanguard of planning: Christine Gray and Lee Godden were two of them, and their stories reveal exactly what it was like as a women operating in the intellectual realm of agencies.

A unique, untold history of the men and women that pioneered the industry, and a guide for those working, or hoping to work, in advertising planning today.

Interviews Include
David Baker, James Best, John Bruce, Leslie Butterfield, David Cowan, Paul Feldwick, Lee Godden, Christine Gray, EV Jenkins, Peter Jones, John Madell, Tony Mortemore, Jane Newman, Doug Richardson, Jim Williams, Roderick White, and Jan Zajac.

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  • John Griffiths avatar

    John Griffiths

    Tracey Follows avatar

    Tracey Follows

    John Griffiths has been an account planner for most of his career. He was one of the first planners to work outside a pure advertising environment in the 1990s as integrated communications came to the fore. He founded the consultancy Planning Above and Beyond, and also commonly writes on the web about planning issues. He continues to be interested in documenting the oral history of how planners work and share their ideas.

    Tracey Follows is an advertising professional with over 20 years experience of working in agencies and client-side, creating brand advertising for the likes of Cadbury's, O2, easyJet, BT, T-Mobile, Canon, and John Lewis. She was named as a top ten planner by Campaign 2011, 2012 and 2013. Tracey is the Chair of the APG (Account Planning Group) which is the industry-recognised community for advertising strategists and planners and now boasts around 1,000 members. Most recently Tracey held the position of Chief Strategy Officer at JWT, one of the two agencies credited as being the birthplace of Planning, and has previously held senior positions at, or been a client of, some of the UK's most famous ad agencies including BBH, Saatchi & Saatchi, AMV, VCCP and Lowe. She also sits on the Exec of WACL (Women in Advertising and Communications London).

  • “Stanley was a philosopher. We were sort of called in to his office to have daily tutorials. Actually we weren’t called into his office. We had to go out with him to lunch and drink a lot of wine for tutorials. His stamina with alcohol was amazing and he was brilliant. He was always highly intellectual when he was drunk so it was good.” Jane Newman, Co-Founder of Merkley Newman Harty

    The first planning department at Pritchard Wood was the brainchild of Stanley Pollitt. He brought together an eclectic group of very bright people but was only notionally in charge. But what brought Stanley to planning?

    His father was a portrait painter trained by the pre-Raphaelite artist Holman Hunt and Stanley had a thorough grounding in fine arts and music, although he wasn’t a painter or a musician. He studied law at Cambridge and had a brilliant mind and wide ranging interests. He boxed for both his school and his Cambridge college, and in his younger years as an account executive, was not averse to having a punch-up on a night out. Paul Feldwick recalls Friday evenings when Stanley would push past the drinkers that had overflowed from Soho pubs in the hope of jostling one or two into spilling their beer and squaring up to him. Stanley’s daughter Katy confirmed that her father sometimes came home with cuts and bruises after a night out.

    Read more...
  • John Griffiths and Tracey Follows have written 23 private updates. You can pledge to get access to them all.

    17th May 2018 The end of an era and the launch of the Paperback Potato

    It is nearly 2 years since 98% Pure Potato was launched. We find ourselves in the 50th anniversary year of the start of account planning at J Walter Thompson and Boase Massimi Pollitt.



    We want to celebrate the anniversary by doing something special. So we're telling you the pledgers and supporters of 98% Pure Potato first. We're bringing it out in paperback which means a significant drop…

    21st December 2017 Christmas Webinar offer and news update at the end of 2017

    This is the last update of 2017. And we thought we would give you A Christmas present: a WARC webinar which is available until halfway January 5th. the material was put together by John and Tracey. And this is a first - talking about the issues about where account planning goes. This has never been more than a slide at recent publications. Well here we talk about account planning in the present…

    27th October 2017 98% Pure Patates Tortilla - talking about the book to Spanish planners

    We do occasional updates here - because supporters like to know how the book is going and what we are saying about it. Last Monday John Griffiths was talking about the book in Madrid to an audience of 80 and a livestreamed audience of 170.  Here's the link to the slideshare but if you want to hear the streamed presentation then you can find it on APG Spain's facebook feed.  In the presentation…

    15th September 2017 Tracey Follows talks about the book in the latest podcast - and about the future in the Virgin Future Visions Project

    Here is the link to the conversation between John Griffiths and Tracey Follows when they met last week at the RSA to reminisce about the writing of 98% Pure Potato - in the podcast of the same name.



    And this week Tracey features on another podcast Virgin Future Visions - a project initiated by Richard Branson no less. She talks about big data and crime, and precrime and Minority Report. So…

    11th August 2017 98% Pure Potato Podcasts - a taster

    Well it's August - this has been promised since January. But John finally went down the garden and read the first chapter of 98% Pure Potato into his digital recorder. The scene setting chapter about context. So if you are into podcasts off you go. If you're into audio books off you go. If you have had the book on your shelf but not got around to reading it yet this might be a way in. And this…

    7th July 2017 Happy Anniversary! - 98% Pure Potato has been on the bookshelves for a year now

    We hope that by now you have read the book and enjoyed it. Thanks to all who supported the project. The main news to report is that Unbound is considering a paperback edition.  But as we move inexorably towards 2018 and the anniversary year we thought we would give you a treat. Here is a clip of Paul Feldwick one of the interviewees from the book talking about how account planning got started in Boase…

    18th April 2017 European Women to Watch: Tracey Follows makes the Ad Age cut

    Congratulations to author Tracey Follows who this week is identified in Ad Age (the USA's leading advertising publication) as one of the 20 outstanding female leaders reinventing the game in marketing advertising tech and media'.  

    You can read her profile here by clicking on her photo.  The only futurist in the group Tracey talks about the importance of being prepared for every eventuality…

    24th February 2017 Just so stories: JWT and BMP - how 98% Pure Potato helps you think about your company's culture

    John Griffiths writes: I marked a rather special occasion this last month. Having talked about the book to the planning departments of both J Walter Thompson at the start of February. And having talked about the book to the planning department at Adam & Eve DDB (the agency which Boase Massimi Pollitt turned into). At the start of December. Rather like the Just so stories of Rudyard Kipling which…

    2nd February 2017 Article in the Market Research Society Magazine Impact about account planning

    And how the UK becomes a global advertising powerhouse and inadvertently creates a qualitative research industry on its way. 98% Pure Potato has told the story of Account Planning but the ramifications went much wider.  Qualitative research was so useful that qual research agencies sprang up to service the demand as more and more agencies introduced planning. This article sketches that story. Enjoy…

    1st December 2016 This month it has all been about Tracey

    Co-author of 98% Pure Potato. She won 2016 agency winner for Outstanding contribution to Marketing at the Women in Marketing Awards night. Her opposite number client side for Outstanding contribution was Nicola Mendelssohn Facebook VP for Europe Middle East and Africa - so she is in good company! 



    She popped up on TEDxWhitehall Women giving a talk about time.

     

    And last week in Campaign magazine…

    28th October 2016 You should learn from history - says Jeremy Bullmore

    If you have anything to do with advertising you will know about Jeremy Bullmore's columns in Campaign magazine where he is asked questions and despatches each one with wit and wisdom. This month he was commenting on the Historic Advertising Trust's exhibition of photos of admen of yesteryear from their archives.  And it gave Bullmore the opportunity to talk about history and why it matters. The…

    4th October 2016 The back story of 98% Pure Potato and the cast of the long lunch

    Thanks to those who wrote reviews for us on the Unbound site and on Amazon. Keep them coming!  Two things to report

    Firstly that the long lunch took place during September - with some of those who had pledged to come and have lunch with us. Here's the team photo. It was slightly alarming how strange it felt to be opening up bottle after bottle of wine. That was normal for a working lunch in…

    3rd August 2016 Photos from the launch of the book at the IPA last month

    photo 1 Tracey and John

    photo 2 Tracey and John with Jeremy Bullmore - whose creative leadership was foundational to the development of planning at J Walter Thompson throughout the time we were writing about and long afterwards. 

    photo 3 Tracey with Guy Murpy and Craid Mawdsley - uber planners! 

    photo 4 Tracey and John with Guy Murphy of J Walter Thompson a major sponsor of the book

    6th July 2016 Launch week for 98% Pure Potato

    So nearly there. The books should be in your hands already or hopefully should be by the end of the week. A few pledgers who opted to support us by coming to the launch party will join a select group of our interviewees tomorrow evening along with our sponsors and representatives of the King and Pollitt familes. 

    The visual is of the bookmark a nice touch that Unbound like to put into their…

    24th June 2016 Announcing a 10% drop in sterling and a bargain for our overseas customers!

    Well the UK Referendum is done and dusted. Hard fought and splitting the country just about down the middle. It has been no different for the authors - John is a defiant Remainer and Tracey a passionate leaver.  So as Tracey traipses back from the Advertising Festival at Cannes where she has been serving on the awards jury (she'll be needing a visa next time then!) the one consolation for our…

    7th June 2016 Update on the launch of 98% Pure Potato

    Forgive the radio silence - if you've been on the site to try and find when the book is available all you can see is a vague statement about May and May is long gone.  We had thought the launch date would be today and had booked the IPA in Belgrave Square to do the job and were looking forward to meeting with our pledgers who went for the party level plus with some of the most distinguished planners…

    4th March 2016 Update and last orders : pledging stops Tuesday at midnight

    I

    If you've already pledged to get your copy of 98% Pure Potato then this is just by way of an update to say we're on our way. The first lot of proofs are coming back from type setting next week and the publication date is set for the beginning of May. You will have been sent an email to check that the spelling of your name to be printed in the back.

    But if you haven't yet pledged then you have…

    18th December 2015 The Christmas Party

    Apologies - we're getting a bit slow on the story front - sorting out those we can tell and those we really shouldn't! Today's post is appropriately for the season a film about a Christmas office party in 1969 at an agency called Davidson Pearce. It illustrates the cultural changes that the 60s brought. The management are still talking like Madmen but the youngsters are dancing to Procul Harum…

    10th December 2015 Film about John Webster of BMP

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LV2CJlO79PE

    And something rather special for the weekend. The wonderful Patrick Collister has taken the time to film interviews with many illustrious advertising people. This film was put together from interviews with the legendary John Webster just before he died. Patrick handed it over students at the School of Communication Arts (where I am mentoring)…

    9th December 2015 Story no 2 Getting to work late..

     

    Two stories also not going into the book, one without and one with consequences. 

    Lee Godden talked about the flexible hours at J Walter Thompson and how she and Jean Grundy stretched them at the start of the day rather than the more usual end of the day. Coming in to the agency as late as 11am and creeping up the back stairs into their offices hoping they wouldn't get caught. But Stephen…

    4th December 2015 Advent cheer - story no 1 False Economy

    We thought as a bit of pre christmas cheer we would give you every few days some treats - you've been waiting for months for scraps of news about 98% Pure Potato.  So here are a few nuggets. Not stories from the book. But stories which didn't make it into the book for various reasons. 



    This one was told us by Martin Boase - it concerns a hapless account exec about who many stories were told…

    30th November 2015 Where account planning came from and why it might be going



    STOP PRESS Heather Lefebre author of a brand new book about the bmarketing strategy posted an interesting blog last week on WARC in which she speculates about the beginnings of the word account planning.  We took an interest in this not least because of meeting Tony Stead the man who came up with the term account planning in an internal meeting at J Walter Thompson in the summer of 1968 and…

    30th October 2015 Where were we? Update about 98% Pure Potato and a £10 offer!

    You may have been wondering where we have vanished to. Well work on the book continues apace. We're sorry not to have kept you up to speed but there has been a bit of rewriting to do and we are moving through the copyediting stage to the point where designers are getting involved. Thank you for your patience and yes this really is going to happen. 



    The same day as the Account Planning Group…

    22nd July 2015 Manuscript delivered to Unbound - there's a bridge crossed

    Hurrah! The manuscript was delivered today to Unbound so they can start to work their magic. Now Tracey is on her way to San Francisco to spent the next week in the company of fellow futurists. 

    In the last post we mentioned an interview with Jeremy Bullmore - well that conversation happened over a week ago and what a useful conversation it was. He worked alongside Stephen King for the best…

    30th June 2015 Lunch with John Bartle

    Tracey and I had lunch with John Bartle last week - he has agreed to write the foreword much to our delight. And last Thursday was our opportunity to quiz him about his background in planning. You'll know him because of the agency he founded: Bartle Bogle Hegarty  one of the great international agencies that has sustained its reputation for great creative work and effectiveness.  What you may…

    7th May 2015 Election Day - and political advertising

    During the interviews the subject of political advertising was mentioned very occasionally. BMP was brave in allowing a shadow agency to use its premises to promote the Labour Party. Not all BMP clients would have approved but Martin Boase was sangine about it - he thought the people in his agency should be able to promote what they wanted without censorship or fear of client disapproval.

    The…

    30th April 2015 The big planning questions

    Here's a link to a film I put together rather hastily in commemoration of our hitting the funding target as 98% Pure Potato gets to 100% although the figure continues to rise - if you know of people who want to pledge then please let them know they can still do so. Thank you to everyone who has supported us by pledging for the book and getting the message out there. 

    I thought it was a good…

    28th April 2015 Books by advertising creatives

    The last in the series of 5 films I have made about books which should be of interest to the account planning fraternity. This one Books by advertising creatives on how to come up with creative ideas. 

     

    So just to summarise there are now 5 films about books on the 98% Pure Potato YouTube channel

    1/ Books about account planning

    2/ Books about how advertising works

    3/ Books about brands…

    27th April 2015 NewMR Article about 98% Pure Potato

    New MR is a resource for researchers who are interested in emerging ideas. So a big thank you to Ray Poynter for inviting us to make a posting about 98% Pure Potato. What we've written about for NewMR is tilted more towards market researchers. Account planning had a massive impact on research. Agencies had always made use of research to that point but after the advent of account planning, some…

    24th April 2015 Film intro to books about brands

    The latest film on books which are of interest to planners - here's my overview of the books about brands which are worth taking a look at. One more film in the sequence and that's books by creatives. 

    23rd April 2015 Brief Encounters - Martin Boase, Paul Feldwick, Adam Morgan

    We're nearly there. Thank you everybody for your patience. There have been a few glitches with the Jane Newman podcast but I am confident we will get it up and working in the next few hours. 

    We thought you would be interested to hear about yesterday's interview with Martin Boase the B in BMP one of the agencies from which planning came. As we prepare to start the final edit before the book…

    22nd April 2015 PSFK op-ed about 98% Pure Potato

    A big thank you to PSFK after their a busy week for them with their New York conference - to run a feature about 98% Pure Potato which allows us to tell a little of the story about how account planning moved across to America for the first time: the rise and rise of the gumshoe strategist.

    16th April 2015 Short history of books written by account planners

     

    This is a risk I know. I am bound to have missed someone out who feels they should have been included - but in this film what I want to highlight is the books written by planners where they aren't talking about planning, advertising or branding.  And when they do the result is always interesting.  Here's the link to the film. Next time we'll look at books about brands. Apologies for the camera…

    9th April 2015 Short history of books about how advertising works

    Here's the next film in the sequence of introductions to important books for planners. We've already covered books about planning. This film is about that actually difficult topi - how advertising works. Once again we are making this avaiable to everyone not just those who have pledged for the book so you are welcome to share this with those you think will be interested. And the pretext for making…

    7th April 2015 Planning Pioneers - Campaign article about the new book

    Just to tip off you Campaign readers that there is an article about the book in this week's Campaign.



    You can read the article here. and ask your colleagues if they've pledged for the book yet! 

    2nd April 2015 John Bartle has agreed to write the foreword to 98% Pure Potato

    You probably think you know John Bartle. Founder of one of the world's most creative agencies Bartle Bogle Hegarty, an agency network which still has the planners' name over the door (not many can say that still). And continues to win awards for effective advertising. But what you probably don't know is that John was the first ever client on the receiving end of account planning ever. In the world…

    10th March 2015 If you are an Admap subscriber

    Then don't miss the article about 98% Pure Potato we have written for the March issue. The article is called Planning's Genesis. Just keeping you in the picture.. if you're not an Admap subscriber then sorry! 

    5th March 2015 Trivia connection: the punk bassist in the Slits really was Stanley Pollitt's daughter

    Last weekend there was a bit of tweet activity on this theme. As somebody made the connection between one of the greatest girl bands in the punk era and Stanley Pollitt one of the fathers of account planning.  It seems there's a generation of punk fans who never knew.  Actually we had found out through this link where Tessa Pollitt talked about her career as a bass player for the Slits as well…

    27th February 2015 J Walter Thompson sponsors 98% Pure Potato

    We're very proud to announce that J Walter Thompson has sponsored 98% Pure Potato.  As one of the agencies in which account planning started it means a lot to us that they have chosen to support the project.  The papers of Stephen King have been published for a few years now.  We want 98% Pure Potato to fit alongside that book as a record of what these early planners (who Stephen King hired) actually…

    12th February 2015 Account Planners and working with data

    Here's another film to get you thinking about current issues and how the example of the first planners might make you better at your job. Our theme today big data. And here one of the surprises of the interviews we ran was how numerate the first planners were. Far more so we believe than today.  

    Its appropriate to be talking about this topic when on February 16th the Admap 2015 essay competition…

    6th February 2015 A history of books about planning



    The content we are posting here on the shed is mostly goodies for the eyes only of those who have pre-ordered. This is for a wider audience. One of the discussions Tracey and I have had is how many of today's planners have ever bought or read a book about planning. If you never had the idea of preordering a book about account planning may be a really strange idea. 



    So to give you encouragement…

    8th January 2015 John Griffiths talks about the book to Kevin Sugrue on his Brand Tao blog

    Just before Christmas I had a long Skype conversation with Kevin Sugrue about the book. Kevin is a planner of long experience who among other things runs the Plannersphere. The conversation went on for so long I wondered which bits Kevin would pick up. Plannersphere receives contributions from planners all over the world so naturally Kevin wanted to talk about what we had learned about planning craft…

    9th December 2014 A big thank you to our innovators and early adopters!

    You know who you are. We really appreciate the way you have got behind the book.

     Feel free to keep mentioning 98% Puret Potato to encourage the early majority!! 

    26th November 2014 Beginnings

     

    24 hours after we started the crowd fundings a big thankyou to everybody who has jumped in to support Tracey and I feet first! We chose the last APG Noisy Thinking of the year to jump start the crowdfunding. The topic was What makes ideas influential? and Tracey was first on to talk about that to a sell-out audience at Google UK's offices.  At the end we showed the film that you will have seen…

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  • Hilton Barbour
    Hilton Barbour asked:

    John & Tracey, I represent the Canadian Account Planning Group (http://www.apgcanada.ca) and, as part of the global Planning community, would like to participate in this effort. We're a small organization (<250 people) but our trajectory and momentum is gaining here. As we'd, unfortunately, not be able to attend any of your live events, I'm wondering how we might get a number of your books for our members here. You can reach me directly at hilton@hiltonbarbour.com or via LinkedIn etc. Best regards, Hilton

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Hilton, Thanks for this. Please can you email us on support@unbound.co.uk with how many copies you were after and we can work out the best way to sort this for you? Many thanks, Caitlin - Unbound Support

    Miguel Gonzalez
    Miguel Gonzalez asked:

    I'm from Chicago in the US of A, and I want to pledge 20 pounds for the hardcover edition. Will you ship it overseas?

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Miguel, Thanks for getting in touch. We do indeed ship outside of the UK, including America. Best wishes, Georgia - Unbound Community Support

    Miguel Gonzalez
    Miguel Gonzalez asked:

    When does the book ship?

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Miguel, Thanks for getting in touch. John and Tracey are currently hard at work writing the book. As soon as they hand in their finished manuscript then we can get to work and will have a clearer idea of the publication schedule. Please do look out for further updates and if there is anything else we can help you with please get in touch via unbound.co.uk/support. Best wishes, Caitlin - Community Coordinator