Good Breeding?

Breed a horse and a donkey and you create a sterile hybrid called a mule. But in Isaac Asi mov’s Foundation books, the most powerful and insightful mind in the galaxy belonged to a hybrid human called The Mule.

Another kind of hybrid is gaining currency in the media business: the union—or at least the teaming—of account planning and strategic media planning. Whether this approach is a mule or a Mule remains to be seen.

McCann-Erickson has begun teaming Universal McCann media planners with McCann-Erickson account planners around its network. Its new strategic director in San Francisco, Rob Kabus, oversees both McCann account planners and Universal McCann media planners.

The idea of bifunctional planning was batted around at the recent 4A’s conference in Orlando. And it sparked two column submissions to Adweek, one from media maven par excellence Erwin Ephron, and one co-written by Butler, Shine & Stern’s head of account planning, Ed Cotton, and media director, Lynda Richardson.

My apologies to the authors, but I will make like Stephen Am brose and boost excerpts from both pieces.

Ephron notes that, “The clinker in account planning is the rise of the media agency as the brand’s other marketing partner.” He adds that account planning doesn’t belong in its traditional home, the creative agency, because “creative loses accounts, media doesn’t. So in a strange twist, the media agency may become the seat of account planning simply because creative is too important not to be able to fire. But to be effective, the account planner needs to sit with creative, not send e-mails.”

Ephron predicts that “major structural changes lie ahead if the benefits of account planning are to be realized,” suggesting that agencies may “rebundle around a new concept of creative management.”

Cotton and Richardson want us all just to get along, regardless. They write, “While media planners are grappling with the fragmentation of options, account planners need to re-establish their relevance as more than just a new-business tool or a fancier name for the ‘research.’ This time of change and uncertainty presents the perfect opportunity for their individual assets to come together.”

Sounds good. One problem: Cats and dogs have more in common than these two types of planners.

Account planners I know are only slightly less humble than James Cam eron, think of themselves as the straw that stirs the creative product and are at best suspicious of and at worst disdainful of numbers. My media planner friends, on the other hand, still marvel that they get press, think of creatives as overpaid idiot savants and get misty about the joys of “drilling down” through reams of data.

If such different people can play nice, they would make this new hybrid work wonders for their clients. In any case, we wouldn’t have any French-judge fuzziness about the results of these pairs.

Combining account planning with media planning will give rise to either spectacularly unworkable mule marketing or extraordinary insight that produces masterful, Mulelike advertising strategy.