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Truth, Lies, and Advertising: The Art of Account Planning

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Account planning exists for the sole purpose of creating advertising that truly connects with consumers. While many in the industry are still dissecting consumer behavior, extrapolating demographic trends, developing complex behavioral models, and measuring Pavlovian salivary responses, Steel advocates an approach to consumer research that is based on simplicity, common sense, and creativity--an approach that gains access to consumers' hearts and minds, develops ongoing relationships with them, and, most important, embraces them as partners in the process of developing and advertising.

A witty, erudite raconteur and teacher, Steel describes how successful account planners work in partnership with clients, consumer, and agency creatives. He criticizes research practices that, far from creating relationships, drive a wedge between agencies and the people they aim to persuade; he suggests new ways of approaching research to cut through the BS and get people to show their true selves; and he shows how the right research, when translated into a motivating and inspiring brief, can be the catalyst for great creative ideas. He draws upon his own experiences and those of colleagues in the United States and abroad to illustrate those points, and includes examples of some of the most successful campaigns in recent years, including Polaroid, Norwegian Cruise Line, Porsche, Isuzu, "got milk?" and others.

The message of this book is that well-thought-out account planning results in better, more effective marketing and advertising for both agencies and clients. And also makes an evening in front of the television easier to bear for the population at large.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published March 13, 1998

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Jon Steel

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 62 reviews
Profile Image for Dmitry.
678 reviews66 followers
September 23, 2021
(The English review is placed beneath the Russian one)

Довольно старая книга, которая была недооценена в России. А вот на Западе книга и популярна и имеет высокий читательский рейтинг. Точнее говоря, для профильной литературы, книгу прочло довольно много людей. Поэтому меня удивила такая кардинальная разница в России. Трудно сказать, с чем это связанно. Возможно, в большинстве случаев, её читали те, кто никакого отношения ни к маркетингу, ни к рекламе не имеют. Либо люди ждали, что книга раскроет секреты создания 100% работающей рекламы. Что, конечно, глупо, ибо такой книги просто не существует, и не может существовать.

Важным отличием этой узкопрофильной книги от других является то, что она полностью посвящена миру рекламы, ибо написана основателем рекламного агентства Chiat/Day. В то же время она будет полезна и маркетологам, ибо в книге затрагиваются очень важные проблемы, связанные с маркетинговыми исследованиями.

Можно сказать, что книга состоит из двух главных тем. Во-первых, это примеры из мира рекламы. Как я понял, в большинстве или даже во всех случаев, это будут история создания рекламы, в которой автор принимал самое непосредственное участие. Конечно, у такого подхода есть и недостаток – необъективность. Ведь вряд ли тот, кто создаёт рекламу, будет описывать провалившуюся рекламную кампанию или критиковать самого себя. Но в то же время автор интересно описывает свой подход в решении проблем, которые ставят заказчики перед создателями рекламы. Автор описывает всю логическую цепочку, которой руководствовалась группа при создании рекламы. Учитывая, что это книга, а не документальный фильм, автору предстояло и интересно описать саму рекламу и то, как к ней пришла команда и сделать всё это интересно. Конечно, в документальном фильме мы бы видели саму рекламу, и это было бы лучше, но, тем не менее, у автора всё же получилось реализовать эту сложную задачу.

И всё же одними примерами из мира рекламы написать хорошую книгу не получится. Нужно что-то и помимо этого. И этим стала идея правильного подхода к маркетинговым исследованиям, а если точнее, то к фокус-группам. Я не буду повторять все те проблемы, с которыми сталкиваются маркетологи при проведении фокус-групп, но скажу лишь, что они – маркетинговые исследования – часто показывают искажённую картину реальности, т.е. они часто вводят в заблуждение, нежели помогают. Мне особенно понравился момент, когда автор описывает, как проводятся фокус-группы в Великобритании и в США. И я также вспомнил самый конец книги «Клиентология: чего на самом деле хотят ваши покупатели» (Consumerology: The Market Research Myth, the Truth about Consumers and the Psychology of Shopping), где автор также пишет о ложной или искажённой информации, которая поступает к маркетологам в ходе проведения маркетинговых исследований, но теперь уже в ходе опросов на тему, «Какой вы выберете бренд, из ниже предложенных». И если в книге «Клиентология» (Consumerology) ценным была только самая последняя часть книги, то в книге «Правда, ложь и реклама», ценным является всё содержание книги. Да и читать её было в разы интереснее. Так что да, фокус-группы и примеры из мира рекламы и размышления автора о роли аккаунт-менеджера. Вот три ингредиента, из которых и состоит книга.

Как можно понять, эта книга не даст базовые знания о рекламе или о маркетинге. Это книга является прекрасным образцом профильной литературы для маркетологов (но лишь отчасти) и для людей участвующих в создании рекламы. Для всех остальных книга станет хорошим снотворным, не более.

Quite an old book that has been underappreciated in Russia. But in the West, the book is both popular and has a high readership rating. More precisely, for specialized literature, the book was read by quite a lot of people. That's why I was surprised by such a drastic difference in Russia. It's hard to say what the reason was. Perhaps, in most cases, it was read by people who have nothing to do with marketing or advertising. Or people were waiting for the book to reveal the secrets of creating 100% working advertising. Which, of course, is silly because such a book does not and cannot exist.

An important difference between this narrowly focused book and others is that it is entirely devoted to the world of advertising because it was written by the founder of the Chiat/Day advertising agency. At the same time, it will also be useful to marketers since the book touches on very important issues related to marketing research.

One could say that the book consists of two main themes. First, there are examples from the world of advertising. As I understand it, in most or even all cases, these examples will be the stories of the creation of advertising, in which the author was very directly involved. Of course, this approach has the disadvantage of being biased. After all, it is unlikely that someone who creates advertising will describe a failed advertising campaign or criticize himself. But at the same time, the author interestingly describes his approach to solving the problems that customers pose to the creators of advertising. The author describes the entire logical chain that guided the group in creating the ads. Given that this is a book and not a documentary, the author had to both describe the ad itself and how the team came to it and make this all interesting. Of course, in the documentary film, we would have seen the commercial itself, and it would have been better, but nevertheless, the author still managed to accomplish this difficult task.

Still, you can't write a good book just by using examples from the world of advertising. One needs something beyond that as well. And that is the idea of the right approach to marketing research, or to be more precise, to focus groups. I won't repeat all the problems that marketers face when conducting focus groups, but I will only say that they - market research - often show a distorted picture of reality, that is, they are often misleading rather than helpful. I particularly liked the moment when the author describes how focus groups are conducted in the United Kingdom and the United States. And I also remembered the very end of the book Consumerology: The Market Research Myth, the Truth about Consumers and the Psychology of Shopping, where the author also writes about the false or distorted information that comes to marketers in market research, but now in surveys about "Which brand would you choose, among those below? And if in the book Consumerology was valuable only the very last part of the book, in the book "Truth, Lies and Advertising", valuable is the entire content of the book. And it was much more interesting to read. So yes, focus groups and examples from the world of advertising and the author's thoughts on the role of the account manager. These are the three ingredients that make up the book.

As you can understand, this book will not provide basic knowledge about advertising or marketing. This book is an excellent example of specialized literature for marketers (but only in part) and for people involved in the creation of advertising. For everyone else, the book will be a good soporific, nothing more.
Profile Image for Jimmy  F. Peak.
111 reviews1 follower
December 15, 2020
An interesting look at Account strategy, but it definitely feels a bit outdated in today's times. As we all know, there was no such thing as social media back in the 1990s. Aditionally, this book focuses on more traditional means of research – Focus groups, surveys – rather than data analytics. What this book does a great job at showing, though, is how ideas are made. There is great commentary on how strategy and creative can work together on a singular brief to create something amazing. For that alone, the book is worth a read. Ideas, sometimes, are at their strongest in the simplest form.
Profile Image for Honza Marcinek.
82 reviews26 followers
July 8, 2018
Tak jsem ji konečně našel - nejlepší kniha o strategii a plánování. Zatím. V tuto chvíli se pro mě jedná o #1 knihu, co se týče popisu toho, o čem plánování vlastně je, a jak správně přistupovat k plánování reklamy. Je to v podstatě kniha, kterou by měl číst každý, kdo se o strategii reklam zajímá a chtěl by se tomu věnovat. Jsou v ní veškeré základy, které je třeba znát.
Profile Image for Detective Deralta.
53 reviews3 followers
July 8, 2022
I read this book after spending over a decade in advertising. As a planner.

Most of the things in this are core planning fundamentals. I'm glad I have been following some without reading. I also feel I would have benefitted impressively if I had read this say 15 years back.

In that sense, it is indeed essential reading for a planner or strategist. If you are one, or aspiring, give it a good go. Even if you aren't, this is interesting to read for few reasons,

- how do campaigns develop
- what does it take to peel layers and understand the nuances of a situation, or solution
- the process of incremental development
- the importance of research and the problems of getting stuck with it. Something I've felt often with some clients. (Unilever)
- the paramount importance of listening and the even more momentous, ignoring or when not to listen.

Ofcourse these aren't chapters or summaries, these are my interpretations.

It also packs in a solid chapter on the iconic Got Milk campaign.

It's a lucid read about an industry that intrigues everyone. It's also probably a good answer to those who ask me what do you do for a living.

Having said that, this is set in the 90s. And people will say, the world has changed, humans have evolved, we have different mediums like social media. Yes it has, no it hasn't, and human behaviour is essentially the same. It's not medium dependent. You can tweak for a format, but you can't craft for a medium. You crack the message and understand behaviour. It just might help you do that!
Profile Image for Amanda .
510 reviews
January 9, 2018
There are about a billions books like this, but each one that makes it on a respectable list usually has a nugget or two. There were a couple gems in here that had me pausing and starting out the window, thinking about my job. That's enough.
1 review
March 8, 2020
Why read this?

The answer is simple. If you plan to get into, or plan to do some meaningful work in advertising, this book actually can help.
Profile Image for Logan Judy.
Author 5 books24 followers
February 2, 2023
I read this for school, but it was really good! Very engaging voice, and some really interesting takeaways.
Profile Image for Sunitha Pai.
4 reviews4 followers
June 1, 2019
This was a page turner! Rarely, if ever, you can call a book on advertising research that..This was a British book and I found it easy to read, the language was impeccable. The book takes a commonsensical approach rather than spout rules of advertising and account planning like most books of the time are wont to do.
Profile Image for Mia.
6 reviews
July 26, 2019
as always, wonderful in this contemporary with no fantastic or elements but a surprise in the ending!
Profile Image for David Gambill.
2 reviews2 followers
November 25, 2018
Account Planners have a unique viewpoint of the customer's relationship to advertising. Steel's book highlights how some of the best campaigns in modern advertising history, such as Got Milk, needed creative insights to come to fruition. He also explains the intricate job of moderating focus groups to get the necessary information to elevate the campaign.
Profile Image for Kevin Grubb.
60 reviews3 followers
January 2, 2014
No one cares about your brand.

I think that's the key message from this book, a message that anyone who sells (directly or otherwise) things for a living needs to bear in mind. Most of your customers don't care about your ads or your product's glorious features. Most of them merely have needs or desires they wish to satisfy, but this doesn't stop companies from feeling that their product or service is somehow "special." The key message is that your customers aren't loyal to you by default; in advertising, it's your job to make sure that whatever you produce is relevant and persuasive to your customer. That's it. And that's the job of an account planner (e.g. "strategist").

Jon Steel does a great job describing the role and value of account planners within an advertising agency. They provide the critical voice of the consumer in the advertising process. Without a planner, campaigns run the risk of being neutered by clients or sent off scope by over-zealous creatives.

If I have one criticism of this book, it's that it can be a little long in places where it doesn't need to be, but his case studies and examples are excellent illustrations of his main concepts, particularly the final chapter about the famous "Got Milk?" campaign?

Recommended for anyone in advertising or marketing because at the end of the day, an advertisers job isn't to enhance the image of the brand, it's to get people to buy it (changing behaviors).
Profile Image for Bucket.
851 reviews42 followers
February 18, 2014
Steel takes a very tongue-in-cheek approach to describing account planning and its role in advertising. He makes the case for account planning - basically it's important role in executing and distilling the right type of research into key goals, audience details, and messages that can inform and spark creative work.

As I read Steel's book, I looked at it more through a branding lens than an advertising lens since that has more relevance for me. I found his ideas very familiar from the other research I've been doing (but perhaps he's more of a pioneer than it seems - after all, this book was first published in 1998).

Some of his ideas and advice seem a little old-fashioned or strange in light of all that has changed since the late 90s, but for the most part this book is still both relevant and fun to read. In particular, Steel's thoughts on how research can go wrong and produce completely false results, and also his description of how to create and what to include in a creative brief are spot-on and very helpful. I also like one method he mentioned for simplifying language: pretend your explaining to a young child what a company or brand is all about.

Themes: advertising, research, communication, marketing, branding, creative work, case studies
Profile Image for Gayatri Sriram.
70 reviews9 followers
September 22, 2014
There's a lot to be learnt in the 250 or so pages of this book, but there is much more to be "un-learnt" as well. I don't know about the rest of the world, but Indians definitely take advertising way too seriously. "Learnings" of one campaign are unabashedly applied to every other clients brief, and case studies become biblical sources of guaranteed success. Much of it, as a result, is predictable. We may be avoiding a lot of heartache later on because of all these self imposed "rules", but we're probably also missing out. I'm guilty of this as much as the next ad professional, and this book was a rude awakening of sorts.

The book is generously strewn with campaigns from Steele's career. Some are very interesting despite being from decades ago. The famed "got milk" campaign is featured at length in one entire chapter, and that could have been the highlight of the book, if it weren't for some other equally engrossing campaigns. All in all, it's a book planners are always told to read, but I'd recommend client servicing, specially account directors to definitely pick up.
Profile Image for Jenny.
10 reviews
February 21, 2010
This is a great foundational book for Account Planning. Jon Steel incorporates a lot of meaningful insights and examples from his past experience. I think this book goes beyond being useful to planners; it also illustrates what an ad agency should be like in order to build successful campaigns and ultimately, client relationships. Even though much has changed in advertising since the book's 1998 publication date, its content is still relevant and applicable to today's advertising strategies. Definitely an awesome book to use for reference!
Profile Image for Kunal.
39 reviews14 followers
May 18, 2015
Largely, this book gave a glimpse into the work which goes into understanding the persona and psyche of the target group. Once this foundation is built , it takes seconds to come up with creative ideas. This book is about the part of iceberg we dont get to see.

Key takeaways:
1] Identify the emotions/reactions which are naturally associated with a product. Then use that. No need to re-invent the wheel. [Cuervo Case Study]

2]Giving a glimpse into what will happen if the product ceased to exist altogether, proved to be an effective ad strategy. [Got Milk Campaign]

Profile Image for Gopal.
22 reviews22 followers
November 11, 2017
For all the account planning thing this book is extolled, it's the ad campaigns which drew me in. Campaign case histories namely Polaroid, Foster Farms & Got Milk will make you run to the author & give him a hug. Barring the high degree of dismissiveness with which he regards the discipline of market research, the book is a must read for all advertising & marketing enthusiasts.
Profile Image for ryan.
7 reviews4 followers
May 3, 2007
people always ask me what I do. they should read this book. its interesting and goes beyond just the advertising world. 4 or 5 case studies including the planning behind the got milk campaign. Jon Steel's a bad ass.
4 reviews
Currently reading
May 19, 2007
"...being out of it has two main advantages. It allows me to see things that may be so familiar to a native that they have become invisible. It also allows others to see me as someone who needs to be educated."
7 reviews4 followers
August 11, 2010
Great introduction to account planning, giving you the history behind why the profession was established. Conversational, tactile knowledge. Pay attention to how the creative brief was born and how it has evolved today in agencies striving to disrupt the silos.
Profile Image for Luis Garrido.
12 reviews
June 5, 2011
Ideas for advertising and account planning that were at least 10 if not 20 years ahead of their time. Literally. Brilliantly and entertainingly written, this book provides smart ideas for how to understand and connect with consumers in a meaningful, emotional, and empathetic way.
Profile Image for Sarah.
226 reviews
June 3, 2011
Great book that gives you an overhead look at Account Planning, the process of creating a creative brief, and the process that went into creating a few really great ad campaigns. Definitely recommended - this is a classic anyone in advertising or marketing should read.
Profile Image for Sean.
4 reviews1 follower
November 7, 2013
This book is a door that has opened to give you a glimpse into the creative minds that are the world's best planners. Planning isn't just research, it's the creative use, interpretation, and gathering of that research. Now I only wish there was a detailed outline of how he goes from point A to B!
16 reviews21 followers
January 10, 2014
Definitely a recommended book for anybody who wants to know about how ads are made from ideas or insights.

A good book to start with if you are an advertising student, or planning to work in the industry.
Profile Image for Isaiah Fapuro.
28 reviews1 follower
July 14, 2014
I really enjoyed this book (and I still want to be a planner, which I suppose is good for me!) My main take away is asking the right questions, and not being afraid to challenge existing ideas, which is my main issue at the moment.
Profile Image for Alex Devero.
540 reviews53 followers
May 24, 2015
An account planner helps develop great advertising by working to understand the consumer’s needs and communicating those to the agency’s creative team as well as the client. This important role is all about creating a meaningful message and a human connection.
Profile Image for Joey Rath.
13 reviews
February 27, 2016
As others said, great introductory book to the world of account planning. I enjoyed reading this when I transitioned to a new job in account planning. It gave me new perspectives and considerations which helped me establish and understand in my role within the agency.
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