The Author

David Brent’s eclectic career and experiences largely involved responsibilities requiring discipline, rigor, investigative skills and also flair and innovation.

His early life experiences included Second World War traumas – in the UK and North Atlantic and in Malaya during the Japanese attack; later service as a platoon commander in the defence of NATO; after special training with the London Metropolitan Police, service in 1952-58 as a senior para-military police officer in Malaya during the Emergency, the exhausting counter-insurgency war against the communists’ ruthless and brutal armed conflict with the objective to take over Malaya and Singapore; police district commander in Malaya’s jungle hinterlands; jungle counter-insurgency commander; service in Malaya’s paramount secret service – counter insurgency intelligence and counter-espionage.

The victory was recognized as a beacon of light in the dark and dangerous years of the ‘Cold War’ against international communism and the ambitions of the USSR.

David Brent had the opportunity to help explain the success story to the world when he appeared in the 2004 BBC TV documentary ‘Empire Warriors – The Intelligence War’ when he particularly confirmed that ‘You couldn’t win without [superb, hard won] intelligence.’  [The program may be seen online at – bbc empire warriors OR at the URL – ].

In spite of some outstanding successes over the decades in the early 20th Century the generally flawed conventional advertising agency MO was prone to an unacceptable level of errors and failures. The insights from innovative warfare management in Malaya and the absolutely vital insights from highly innovative world-best marketing and market research at Unilever Australia were the breakthrough experiences that convinced David Brent that a new ad agency MO with a highly multi-skilled specialist working proactively with the agency teams and clients was the exemplary innovative formula for the future. How this came about is explained.

Following GM of a market research company in Singapore and ad agency account service, creative writing and media management in Singapore and Australia, David Brent was extremely fortunate in 1962 to join Unilever Australia who were looking for a person with combined market research and advertising agency experience. Here he acquired extremely valuable and rare experience in world-best marketing and world-best market research working intensely with Unilever’s marketing teams and its many successful brands.

This was the fortunate turning point with considerable involvement in Unilever’s many advertising campaigns with its retinue of major advertising agencies. The outcome by 1965 was David Brent’s identification of a major flaw in the MO of advertising agencies due to lack of sufficient marketing orientation among senior management and talent, over emphasis of unbridled creative intuition and insufficient ongoing interface with consumers in the market place. He believed that the only solution was a new specialist multi-skilled professional to proactively work with agency teams and clients with ongoing interface with consumers.

The skills of powerful marketing, powerful market research, intelligence, planning and advertising were successfully introduced by David Brent into a Sydney agency, Thompson Ansell Blunden [later Grey Advertising] in January 1966. The title of ‘planner’ was adopted later as it was in the UK also.

In 2004 the former MD of the agency, Bruce McDonald, Founder Chairman, Grey Advertising, Australia and the Pacific, Founder Chairman, Advertising Federation of Australia, was gracious to say ‘…. Then there were planners, thinkers, strategists. This then was David; among the first and undoubtedly, one of the most professional thinkers at this early time, and still now.’

Global recognition

Wikipedia – Account Planning

‘In Australia the inventor of the role in 1965 was David Brent, a senior researcher at Unilever who had served as a senior para-military police commander in a long major counter-insurgency jungle war in Asia and in the national secret service followed by ad agency account service, creative writing and media management. These qualifications, skills and experiences led to the launch of the new role in a Sydney agency in 1966.’

The Planning Hall of Fame includes


David Brent was a para-military police officer in a long counter-insurgency war in Malaya in the fifties in which he also served in the nation’s secret service. After work in Singapore in market research, ad agency account service and creative writing and in Sydney in ad agency account service and media management he joined Unilever in Sydney as a market researcher specializing in advertising research and then later as general research client contact. After years working with Unilever’s marketing teams and Unilever’s many successful brands involved in many forms of market research, especially advertising research, David believed that the modus operandi of ad agencies was inadequate. At the end of 1965 he conceived the idea of a specialist role in the ad agency combining marketing, market research, intelligence and advertising. In 1966 he launched the new role in a medium size Sydney ad agency, Thompson Ansell Blunden [later Grey Advertising].
In the second agency he again launched the planning role in 1969 and over the next 8 years the agency, Hertz Walpole Advertising, experienced rapid growth with the combination of powerful planning and spectacular campaigns.
It is possible that the initial version of planning launched by David Brent in Australia was more inclusive than the initial version in the UK with concern for total brand health as well as the advertising development process. Probably this was due to David’s background and experience with Unilever concerned with the many facets of brand performance and health.


The very fortunate experience of world-best marketing and market research at Unilever led to an agency MO that saved time and cost. It helped to uncover hidden opportunities and to avoid costly errors. It was the beginning of a more professional and business-like modus operandi for ad agencies.