Truth, Lies, and Advertising: The Art of Account Planning (Adweek Magazine Series) Hardcover – 16 Mar 1998
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". . . I was glued to Jon's book. Best practice, common sense, and extraordinary intelligence throughout." -David Wheldon, President, BBDO Europe. -- David Wheldon, President, BBDO Europe.
"A very smart, very funny look at what works, what doesn't, and why, in the sometimes maddening, sometimes inspiring business of advertising. One of the brightest books about the subject in a long, long time." - Geoffrey Frost, Director of Global Advertising, Nike Inc. -- Geoffrey Frost, Director of Global Advertising, Nike Inc.
"Jon Steel is one of the top five account planners in the world. The depth and breadth of this book reflects his vast personal experience and exceptional talent. It's not just a great book about account planning, it's a great book about advertising." -Jane Newman, Partner, Director of Strategic Planning, Merkley, Newman, Harty. -- Jane Newman, Partner, Director of Strategic Planning, Merkley, Newman, Harty.
"The beauty of this book is that it discusses the theories and practice of one of the brightest minds in advertising today, yet never loses its irreverent tone. It's a great book for the advertising industry and a must read for planners." -Rob White, Director of Planning, Fallon McElligott -- Rob White, Director of Planning, Fallon McElligott
From the Publisher
A terrific book on advertising from Goodby Silverstein
Jon Steel is Director of Account Planning and Vice Chairman at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, the ad agency that created the witty and memorable "Got Milk?" campaign for the California Milk Processors, as well as great ads for Polaroid, Porshe, Nike, Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch, and Hewlett-Packard. This book shows how account planners have become a key component to campaign development...account planning is the most significant change in the advertising industry in the last 30 years. Account planning requires equal part researcher, account executive, creative, and surrogate customer. Planners can get into consumers' minds and discover how they relate to particular brands, products, and categories. This book describes some of the techniques of finding real consumer insights and suggests that simplicity, creativity, and common sense are the most important ingredients for success.
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I found this book really interesting. About how research can be flawed and how to conduct proper research. Then how the results from that research are used to form the advertising. What I most enjoyed reading about were, among other things, how to advertise an SUV vehicle that isn't that distinctive from it's rivals, or how to sell cycle helmets to kids who think that cycle helmets aren't cool - and to their parents. The most important thing that this book did for me was to describe the process of creating great advertising from it's initial inception right through to the finished product. And, as I touched on earlier, there are some great examples of very successful advertising campaigns being executed, seemingly, against great odds. I particularly enjoyed the chapter about the 'got milk?' campaign - which was responsible for increasing milk consumption in California when it had been in decline. I laughed out loud quite afew times. Infact, all of this book is written with great wit and humour. It's a joy to read and flows very easily.
Advertising is part of our culture. It's up there with art, music, the theatre and television. Whatever your views are about Western Capitalism you can't escape the fact that people like adverts, and are influenced by them despite what they say - I know that I am. So if you like culture you should read this book.
What a book Jon Steel has written! It is lively, intelligent and in chapter after chapter it showcases his analytical ability as well as his commitment to finding the basis for some of the best advertising we have seen. Steel is the consummate planner and his writing reflects the thought processes and the workings of an agency that has claimed and kept the strategic high ground. It is the firm so many of us envy and the one our students want to join. Truth, Lies and Advertising is , in short, a wonderful book written by an Englishman about what may be -- or clearly was at one point in time -- the best agency in America. Steel uses his agency as a vehicle to describe the process and orientation of account planning and advertising. In that authorship lies both the many strengths and the occasional weakness of Truth, Lies and Advertising.
Steel understands the importance of relationships when he describes the nature of exploring the consumer, the brand and the societal framework in which it all takes place. In his discussion Steel recognizes the monumental contributions of Bill Bernbach and the influence his work had on the awareness of the consumer as an intelligent and sympathetic target. Steel suggests that the resulting humanity and sensitivity that Bernbach's work produced had a significant impact on the thought processes of British advertising agencies and, in fact, helped spawn a new discipline known as account planning.
The emphasis was clear: the advertising industry needed to gain insight into human nature so that it could create ads that spoke to their target and were perceived as being relevant. By recalling a brilliant little adage Steel reminds his readers that the way in which the target feels about the ad and interacts with it characterizes gre! at advertising: when baiting a trap with cheese always leave room for the mouse! The book itself reflects this principle and the reader will enjoy the sense of discovery and enlightenment that accompanies one's interaction with it. Steel's style and ready reference to key issues and personal experiences further enhance the advertising wisdom this book delivers.
In addition to the wonderful "got milk" case Steel's best moment in the book for this reader is the discipline and use he provides for the creative brief. For Steel the single purpose of making the advertising better -- of getting the advertising right -- is the potent driving force for the brief. It is not, Steel admonishes us, merely a series of questions that must be asked in a particular order or the submission of enough weighty evidence to justify a doctoral dissertation. Rather, the brief is the synthesis of the planner's works and thoughts represented in a solid fashion that -- ideally -- becomes the doorway for the creative process.
Steel's appreciation of research may appear mysterious to those less familiar with the rather doctrinaire approach of many British planners to quantitative methodology. There is even Steel's assertion that the better thought out the research plan the less valuable it's results will probably be! His reference to the Heisenberg principle is much less shocking than I believe he expects; few researchers or planners today are so unthinking as to fail to recognize that their intervention -- in a physics lab or in a focus group -- somehow alters the results in ways we may not understand.
Steel is generally hard on the usefulness of statistical measures -- and on the intellectual abilities of those who shepherd such activities. Yet he is pleased to report research results he likes --for example, when discussing the successful attainment of specific objectives in the "Got Milk?" Campaign. To the extent that Steel's views are similar to the widely held belief that advertising research fr! equently killed good creative and drove a long lasting -- if not permanent -- wedge between the researcher and the creative departments, the point is important to make from an historical perspective.
Yet, the issues we are trying to resolve call for all our resources, including personal and subjective points of view, so that we can -- as Jon Steel would have us do -- get the advertising right. There is as little room in this competitive profession for bad research as there is for bad planning. Account planning is, as Steel asserts, most likely to work best when it is a combination of many points of view. Then, the insertion of a brilliantly straight forward notion that transcends the data and takes us to a new place (e.g."got milk?", or "see what develops") is really what account planning is all about.
Steel's book is, as he says, more than a description of account planning. Yet, it is the best description of the way in which the process works that the profession has so far. In addition, the book is a wonderful tale of a time in an agency's life when the right juxtaposition of talent, brains, raw energy and empowering clients came together. The feeling the reader receives is that the pages open before them have been written by someone who loves advertising. Those who know Steel -- or have even briefly met him or heard him speak -- know that to be true.
I think all senior executives should read it, if for only this reason: A couple of years back, I consulted to a Fortune 100 consumer products company. When talk of advertising strategy arose, someone mentioned that it should take on a Seinfeld like approach. Without blinking, the President of this $billion division said, "what's Seinfeld?" Since this person had final approval on all creative, it became clear to me how out of touch some executives are with their consumers.
Steel's book is an easy and worthwhile read and I recommmend it to anyone who has any influence on advertising strategy.
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