|Alex Pallete has been recognized as a leading pioneer of account planning in the U.S. Hispanic advertising agency business.
The native of Spain is now fast making a name for himself as the father of U.S. Hispanic account planning. His achievements have earned him a spot in Advertising Age's 2005 "Twentysomethings" special report, published in this week's print edition. The annual "Twentysomethings" report spotlights 20 of advertising, marketing and media's standout executives who are in their 20s -- the leaders of the next generation of the industry at a time when that industry and its marketplace are undergoing unprecedented upheavals.
Rapidly changing market
Mr. Pallete, who turns 29 today, is one of many who point out that it has never been more important for agencies to value and develop the kinds of skills necessary to clearly identify and understand the implications of the changes sweeping across the Hispanic as well as all other U.S. consumer segments.
"I’m curious. I’m not a creative, but I consider myself an inspiring communicator," says Mr. Pallete, who is vice president and director of account planning at the Vidal Partnership, New York.
Account planners do not create ads. They don't buy media and they don't hand-hold clients. Using quantitative and qualitative research, account planners explore consumer behavior and connections to brands. Then, working with creative directors and account managers, planners devise the most practical and effective ways to connect a brand with target consumers. Their role is to create an inspiring, relevant creative brief.
While much of Mr. Pallete's time is focused on bridging account management and the agency’s creative department, he’s not limited those areas only. Sandra Alfaro, vice president and director of account management, recalls how Mr. Pallette inspired his colleagues in disciplines from online to promotions by taking them as close as possible into the consumers’ world.
The Nissan briefing session
To brief his colleagues on Nissan's goal for the Altima, Mr. Pallette rented the vehicle so agency creatives could experience for themselves the car’s power following Mr. Pallette’s verbal explanation of consumer behavior. He led a briefing for Heineken at Latin Night at the China Club in New York, where the agency’s team was surrounded by prospective consumers.
Early on a Sunday morning at a San Francisco Home Depot, Mr. Pallete, Vidal Partnership colleagues in tow, interviewed shoppers to understand their motivation for buying paint.
"He stops at nothing to give the team the opportunity to think, feel and see what our target consumer does," Ms. Alfaro says.
Before joining Vidal in February 2002 as an account planner, Mr. Pallette left Delvico Bates in Madrid for job in the U.S. that combined both account management and account planning at Bates South, in Miami. He lent his planning expertise to Bates’ South American regional offices on numerous pitches -- and even lived for several months in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he helped build an account planning group. Ultimately, he decided to move to New York and focus solely on planning.
Bold job search
He combined weekend visits to Manhattan with a bold job search, in which over several months he left introductory notes at New York agencies he hoped had a need to build their account planning discipline and hire him.
Vidal Partnership’s Tony Ruiz, a partner for advertising, and Giovanni Pacheco, vice president for strategic planning, responded. Working closely with Ms. Alfaro and Vice President and Creative Director Mauricio Galvan, Mr. Pallete set out to help the agency build what he calls a true account planning department.
"We’re not researchers or sociologists; we’re passionate about advertising. We use research as part of our intuition," Mr. Pallete says. "I didn’t know if my version of account planning would work. They took a risk and so did I."
It paid off for both.
With Mr. Pallete's leadership, Vidal’s account planning department stands out among Hispanic agencies.
Agency's primary asset
"It is one of the main reasons clients choose us," CEO Manny Vidal says. In addition to Mr. Pallete, the agency has three senior account planners and one account planner. Management intends to hire an account planning director as well as several junior account planners.
Mr. Pallete’s not content with bringing planning to Vidal Partnership: now he’s spreading his gospel. Last September he also organized the first-ever account planning conference within the annual Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies gathering. "I’m not the first or the only one to do account planning in this market," he said. "But Vidal Partnership supported my vision by investing time, money and energy. Planning became a priority."
"My goal is the brief," he says. "Our work is totally impacting creative."
Not surprisingly, he’s upbeat about account planning’s future, though he recognizes the challenges that await: "Today’s -- and tomorrow’s -- consumers are in total control of the relationship that brands are trying to establish with them. The challenge I have is to find open-minded professionals who are willing to try new and different ways to converse with their targets."