ACCOUNT PLANNING GROUP-U.S. SHUTS DOWN

Professional Organization to Be Absorbed into 4As

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Two years after it launched as an independent professional organization,
Denzil Meyers led one of last year's conference workshops.

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the Account Planning Group-U.S. is throwing in the towel and being absorbed into the 4As.

O. Burtch Drake, 4As president-CEO, last week said his organization it will take over the duties and responsibilities of the group that has about 1,000 members. The 4As will also underwrite and host the annual Account Planning Conference and awards program, scheduled for September in Boca Raton, Fla.

Executives familiar with the situation said the 4As will also assume as much as $150,000 in APG debt.

'Leaving your ego'
Cathy Clift, co-chair of the APG-U.S., said that even as the group's 20-member board voted to dissolve itself and rejoin the 4As two weeks ago, "a little bit of leaving your ego behind was required." Ms. Clift, who is also executive vice president and director of brand planning at Omnicom's Rapp Collins Worldwide, Dallas, said Mr. Drake was "gracious and welcoming" to her suggestion for a reabsorption.

In 2000, members of what had been the 4As Account Planning Committee and others formed APG as a parallel professional group to the 4As. The 4As subsequently continued to maintain its own Account Planning Committee.

Account planning is a somewhat esoteric discipline not well understood by outsiders. Its members do not create ads. They don't buy media and they don't handhold clients. They are the devisers of brand strategy. They research and analyze, they write marketing plans and they apply the findings of disciplines as wide-ranging as semiotics, quantum forensic mechanics and method acting to the task of determining a brand's essence.

'Engage the Monster'
For instance, one of the workshops at APG's "Changing Minds in America: The Art and Science of Persuasion" conference last year was entitled "Engage the Monster: Improvisational Play to Practice Taking Risks."

The discipline began in the U.K. in the 1960s; its earliest practitioners were Stephen King of J. Walter Thompson and Stanley Pollitt of BMP, both in London. Account planning came to the U.S. in the early 1990s and grew steadily throughout the decade.

"The rationale of the APG in the U.S., as well as in the U.K., is about advancing the craft of the profession, which has been growing," said Mad Dogs & Englishen's co-chairman, Robin Hafitz, a board member of the APG-U.S. "But it is a question of resources."

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