The agency has just plucked Sarah Power, most recently senior VP-communications strategist at Havas' MPG, to be Initiative's senior VP-director of strategic planning. Her role, a new one at the agency, "is to function as a central resource for the agency, and focus on developing real, actionable consumer insights," said her boss, Rob FitzGerald, exec VP-managing director.
Ms. Power's hiring is the latest implementation of a plan launched by Initiative North America CEO Richard Beaven last year to beef up the agency's expertise in the communications- or channel-planning discipline.
"We've made it a priority," said Mr. Beaven. "Sarah's got breadth and depth." At MPG, she worked on GlaxoSmithKline, Schering-Plough and ExxonMobil. Prior to MPG, Ms. Power was senior VP-strategic director at Carat, where she oversaw Procter & Gamble's family-care and baby-care businesses.
Mr. FitzGerald moved to New York last year after several years in Asia. Most recently, he was president of Initiative Tokyo and head of North Asian operations. "We've always been seen as strong in buying in North America, and around the world, Initiative is well regarded in planning. Now, we're bringing more of that capability to the U.S." said Mr. FitzGerald, who is credited with successfully introducing channel-planning to the agency in other markets. He plans to expand his 40-person planning group by "at least 10" in the near future, he said.
Initiative in January successfully defended the media-buying portion of Bayer AG, and added planning duties from OMD for such brands as Aleve and Alka Seltzer; Revlon moved buying and planning for its $150-million-plus business from Carat earlier this month without a review. Mr. Beaven credits the changes he's made since joining in the middle of 2006 for the wins.
In addition to bolstering planning, Initiative integrated buying for all media types under one executive, Tim Spengler, formerly director-national broadcast. As chief activation officer, he now oversees all buying and works closely with a new group, comprised of each of the agency's buying executives, which integrates daily operations of each of Initiative's buying networks.