The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Thinking

Planners are a Smash hit

Reading 98% Pure Potato, Paul Arscott is reminded of how planning has evolved over the years and the vital contribution that qualitative research has made to the creative process.

Firstly, I loved this book. It reaffirms all the career direction decisions I’ve taken over the years, and reminds me why I still love this industry. 98% Pure Potato (the title relates to a proposition for that famous Smash ad) passionately reveals how advertising has evolved since the 1960s, the introduction of account planners into agency life, and most relevantly for this review the critical contribution of research to the creative process.

The UK ‘invented’ planning, with Pollitt (BMP) and King (JWT) seen as pioneers, changing the way advertising was developed. Focusing on the consumer and placing agency researchers (later known as account planners) at the heart of the agency process.

This is where I feel the book is essential reading for any researcher. It talks about how our research is not a means to an end, but a creative building block. Research should help planners and creatives develop stronger, more relevant and distinctive communications. Listen and learn. Together.

Planners became problem solvers for clients. To understand the problem, you need to understand the consumer. The book highlights how advertising briefs changed from focusing on input (what we wanted to say), to outputs (what we wanted the consumer to think or feel as a result of the advertising) which put research right at the heart of effectiveness. I also particularly liked hearing more about the fantastic truth, that there is no single route into account planning.

The book then brings the scenario right up to date to our ever more complex comms and research landscape. 98% Pure Potato has plenty of evidence and stimulus to inspire the next generation of planners and researchers through these new challenges.

We’ve come a long way since dustbin surveys. Today’s technology means we are more informed than ever. But as John Griffiths reassuringly reminds us, this can never override observing and understanding real human behaviour.

A special offer for AQR members

John Griffiths is kindly offering AQR members a 50% discount on the kindle
version of 98% Pure Potato until the end of October. Just go to the website and enter the code AQR16 when ordering. This offer does not apply to the hardback version.


Paul Arscott
Managing Director, Brand Ignite

This article was first published in InBrief magazine, September 2016
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2016