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

Thursday, 30 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 opportunity to go back to fundamentals and the key planning questions that the interviewees told us about over and over. The reason we think that the book is timely and important is that these questions have been largely forgotten.

And they are these -

Question 1 What is the audience taking out of the communication?

It's much more important than what you are trying to say.  In the film I give examples of lines that we wrote to explain what 98% Pure Potato is about and why we wrote it. To encourage people to buy it. And a quick rehearsal of the lines shows how whatever you say - someone can take something very different out of it. And that is why if you develop communications without actually understand what people are seeing. Then you're going to screw it up.   

The creative Dave Trott (once of BMP by the way) has written brilliantly about this in Campaign - we don't see images we see interpretations. What is in our heads. 

Question 2 What is the role of communications in bringing about the outcome?  How do you think it is going to do the job?

My concern about a lot of digital advertising is that it doesn't think that audience takeout matters - all we need to worry about is behavioural response. I think that's a mistake and a dangerous oversimplification.  

And a consequence of having too many channels to choose between means that planners tend to specify channels without explaining what the overall effect of the communication is going to be - how does the channel plus content and mechanic do what you want it to do? How does watching a youtube film embedded in a facebook page with 15 likes from friends ACTUALLY WORK? 

If you've read this far and you're in a hurry then you will have got the main points from the film. Except a little extra where I tell the story about Tony Stead the man who came up with the term account planning when they were setting up the department at J Walter Thompson in 1968. And when he told me that planning was designed to answer one question and one question only. You'll have to watch the film to find out what that question was!  

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