Is Account Planning about Problem Solving?
Have a look at this nice introduction to planning. It's really good. Thank you, Mark Pollard!
Look at the left of it: it is build around the notion of "THE PROBLEM". Lots of account planners stress that planners need to identify the problem first. And it works really well for lots of tasks at hand. My concern with this, nevertheless, is: I this always the case? What if it's not about a campaign that has to change attitudes - but e.g. about long lasting platforms for brands? Haven't you also encountered situations in which the work just doesn't seem to be problem based? When you might be able to formulate a problem but this would just be a verbal trick of stating something negatively? Or you would arrive at very generic "problems" like "the brand could be positioned more clearly" or "not enough competitive advantage" or "communication in this field is stereotyped, the challenge is to find new ways", etc. But these are obviously not those kind of smart problem discoveries planners are eager to find.

I personally like the problem based paradigm. It helps a lot. It helps to teach juniors for example: "Don't think solutions first. Think problems!", etc. It's a clear advise how to work and those advises are scarce in our business.
Bit sometimes I guess problem-based is wrong or rather not necessary. Do we always need a problem to get to the Insight? Do we need a Big Problem to arrive at a Big Idea? Can a lasting brand positioning always be built based on an actual problem the brand has right now? Or take another example: do we need a problem to outline a christmas promotion? Or when a brand is not there yet, its problem is so to say that it doesn't exist, yet. Is this really helpful to find the Big Insight into a Human Truth?

I would guess, problem based is right for maybe 60% of the cases given. (Don't ask me where I have this number from, It's pure guessing - and just a number. And what is "right" anyway? Probably nonsense as well..)

Read the follow-up on this post here.