Account planning is the direction of campaign development at advertising agencies. The account planner represents the interests of the customer to help the company develop a relevant and appropriate approach to advertising. Large agencies may have an entire department to handle this, while smaller firms delegate the work to one or two individuals who handle all the company's accounts. It requires coordination between different departments as well as good communication skills.
One part of the responsibilities involved in account planning revolves around research. Advertising companies need to know the target demographic and must collect information about it to make campaigns useful and relevant. In account planning, people perform focus groups, send out surveys, and engage in other research to learn about the demographic. They can test prototypes and proposals for campaigns to see how members of the public respond, and use this information to keep development on track. If the account planner knows, for example, that the demographic dislikes an ad, this person can discuss the situation and recommend alternatives.
Awareness of the client's profile is also important. Personnel in the account planning department work directly with the customer to learn more about the goals for the campaign, assist in the preparation of an advertising brief, and make sure they thoroughly understand the client. They must consider the reputation of the client and its history when they work with the creative team. Each advertisement should add to the reputation associated with a brand in a positive and constructive way, to enhance the company's standing in the market.
Members of the account planning department are present at every stage to improve the quality of the end product. They participate in the development of briefs and proposals, and maintain clear lines of communication between the creative department and the client. As ads go into development, they can test them with the demographic, make suggestions to refine them, and research ad placement opportunities. Account planning can include recommendations for advertising buys that would fit with the campaign, as well as evaluation of the market response after release of the ad to see if works.
Careers in account planning usually require a degree in advertising, business, or a related field, although it is sometimes possible to learn on the job and work up to this position. Professional organizations are available to help account planners network with coworkers, learn about job opportunities, and develop professional skills. Trade magazines and other resources keep people undated on the latest in the industry so they can serve their employers and clients effectively.