When I grow up, I want to be an Account Planner. This much I know.
What I can’t remember is when I actually made the decision. It could have been a year ago, when I first analyzed MRI+ reports (and loved it, like the nerd I am), or it could have been this summer, when I helped with my first focus group. What began as an inkling grew into a conviction, and although I’m not sure how it happened, I’m glad it did.
Talking to other Planners, I’ve found that many of them got into Planning like I did. We just fell into it. If I had to guess why that is, I’d have to blame the job’s complexity. It’s hard to flat-out choose a career that has so many definitions and interpretations. The UK’s Account Planning Group lists more than 14 roles an Account Planner may fill, from Data Analyst to Think Piece Polemicist (whatever that means). It’s quite a repertoire.
And it doesn’t help that there isn’t much discussion out there. There are a few “classic” Account Planning books (which describe the meat and bones of the job very well), but there’s very little about the current state of Planning. From what I can tell, the nuances of Planning vary depending on who and where you are. In some areas of the US, Planning has lost its dazzle. Others are just now incorporating it into their agencies. Some agencies do it well, others don’t.
However, I have noticed that all good Account Planning shares one common thread: it’s all about big ideas. That’s not to say Planners always have the big ideas. Big ideas can come from anyone, anywhere. Rather, Account Planners are the agency counterpart ultimately responsible for knowing the business, industry and consumer so well that when a big idea comes along, even covered in mud, they can’t help but take it under their wing. They push for the big ideas. They believe in the big ideas. They aren’t the advocate for the consumer, they’re the advocate for big ideas.
So, that’s how I see Account Planning. It may not say much about what Planners do on a daily basis, or provide much direction for a novice like me, but it does present a challenge. It challenges Planners to know things. To learn every day. To listen to their coworkers and clients, gain their trust, and do everything they can to make sure their agency’s work is current, creative and – ultimately – valuable.