A former crime-buster, counter-insurgency/terrorism and spy-catcher veteran invented the account planning role in ad agencies at Unilever Australia in 1965.

Five years after arriving in Australia from Asia and working at Unilever, specializing in market research, David Brent realized that there was a compelling need  for a more superior level of vigorous, ongoing intelligence in ad agencies to achieve more consistently effective advertising.

Superior intelligence is the source for all good planning. Ad agencies sadly lacked the calibre of intelligence needed and the style of executive to drive the gathering, analysis and application of intelligence to help greatly improve the standard of advertising effectiveness and the chances of marketers' success.

David Brent saw successful military and counter-insurgency action with strong emphasis on highly effective combat and counter-espionage intelligence. His experiences, both military and later commercial, led him to the unshakable belief in a new and vital role in the ad agency - the marketer / researcher / planner / strategist.

David Brent says,

Analogies are sometimes useful in helping to clarify the reasoning for new ideas. Perhaps the following will help to explain how things occurred in my mind through various life and career experiences and how these influenced me to come to the conclusion that a specialist planning function in an ad agency would work well.

The Army
As a young platoon commander in Trieste in the defence of NATO from 1949 to 1951 I was on a steep learning curve. This was a 'knife-edge' situation as Jugoslavia threatened to invade the UN free territory of Trieste and we had to do everything possible in terms of activity and presence to discourage them. Apparently we succeeded. Part of my work and experience was to understand the role of the Battalion Intelligence Officer [IO] and to obtain a clear grasp of the importance and ramifications of good intelligence and how vital it is to win battles and achieve victory. The IO and his section worked closely with all units in the battalion.

The Para-Military Police in Counter-Insurgency
During the 1948 - 1960 Emergency, the war against the communists in Malaya whose objective was to take over Malaya and Singapore, I served as an assistant superintendent of police [ASP] commanding numerous large districts in the country. I was also trained [via standard British Intelligence methods adapted to local conditions] and operated as a specialist intelligence officer. Our role was two-fold. To gain critical intelligence of the communist terrorist organization and their intentions at all levels in the jungles of Malaya and also, to penetrate, subvert and destroy the Min Yuen, the spy network of the Malayan Communist Party in their clandestine cells throughout Malaya whose role it was to channel intelligence, supplies and new recruits to the units in the jungles and to engage in espionage and assassinations. The police intelligence specialist and the police commander and local military commander worked very closely together to beat the enemy.

When I worked in market research at Unilever in Sydney, the research client contact executive worked closely with the marketing people in the different companies keeping them advised of developments in the market place and recommending ways to obtain the best intelligence on market problem situations to help find the best solutions. Again, the valuable continuity of the intelligence specialist working closely with the front line marketers. Later, as the head of market research and intelligence at Reckitt & Colman in Sydney, my close work with the marketing people was the same.

My experience with and observation of advertising people generally at that time was that they tended to lack sufficient practical marketing orientation and analytical objectivity in planning. Among some there appeared to be signs of anti-intellectual bias and in general there tended to be an entrenched dedication to execution rather than strategy. There appeared to be a very logical and vital need for the account people in the agency to have an intelligence specialist working closely with them. This specialist would have the qualifications, skills and the time to construct an accurate picture of the market, the consumer target audience and all other vital information to help make campaign planning more informed, more accurate, more effective - with fewer mistakes, less cost and greater success for clients. The onerous responsibilities of the account service people did not permit them to have the time to do all this, even if they had the inclination or the qualifications. And politics and expediency were often barriers to frank and truthful opinions. Hence my introduction of the new role of the person in the ad agency who was 'marketing' & 'research' & 'planning' and finally became known as the 'account planner' or sometimes the 'strategy planner'.

The early years of account planning proved beyond doubt the value of the planning role in providing valuable insights to the creatives, getting it right first time, increasing the agency profitability and giving clients what they needed. Included are -

Why David Brent refused to run a campaign for a client. When research then clearly revealed why he had refused and why the campaign was so ineffective, a new campaign was developed, tested and won the day. The nervous client decided to stay with the agency and the planning role marked up another outstanding success.

What clients said about the vigorous new planning role introduced by David Brent and what strengths and benefits they recognized for themselves and their companies.

How the planning role in the ad agency has been the most important management innovation in the ad industry in the past half century.

"The innovation of the account planning role in the ad industry is one of the most important key factors to help advertising be more relevant, effective and valued and to help the industry become a respected and admired profession. I hope that the Originplan.com web-site will make a worthwhile contribution towards this aim."



David Brent


David Brent

1949 - NATO
Trieste-Jugoslavia border patrol

1953 - MALAYA
On tour of jungle district

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