"You can see a BBDO spot a mile away," a chief creative director at a competing agency said recently. "They're big, cinematic and they usually star a celebrity or an athlete."
The agency is making a bold move to change that perception, with staff appointments to round out its newly refurbished strategic planning services department. Matt Seiler, a senior account director on BBDO's Frito-Lay business, worked with Karen Olshan, director of research services, to transform the agency's formidable, 50-person research department into a planning division.
AROUND THE WORLD
The new planning team includes: William Charnock, senior VP-group director, who came to BBDO four months ago from partner and director of account planning on IBM Corp.'s IBM and Lotus software at Ogilvy & Mather, New York; Anthony Aconis, associate group director, who arrived at the same time from BBDO Denmark, Copenhagen, where he had been head of planning; Mary Winter, senior VP-planning and research director, who shifted last week from senior strategy planner at George Patterson Bates in Melbourne; and Gavin Thompson, associate group director responsible for the PepsiCo and FedEx accounts. Mr. Thompson came to the U.S. last week from Abbott Mead Vickers/BBDO, London, where he was account director on Volvo Car U.K. and Guinness.
"What we wanted to do was bring in an outside perspective," said Mr. Seiler, who added that hiring foreigners was intentional. "The fact that they all have lived in a different country and have had their training in various parts of the world allows us to think very differently, and that's a perspective that has been embraced by the creative department."
The BBDO research department previously had very little direct contact with the agency's fabled creative wing. "We were looking at what our brands stood for, who our competitors were, what problems consumers faced in the category," Ms. Olshan said of her old department.
In the past, BBDO's research department, Mr. Seiler said, got involved with the creative branch only after the work had been produced. "Creative people didn't want to work with the research department because the research department was responsible for killing work -- not that that's what their charge was," he said.
FROM THE START
Now, with the new arrangement, BBDO creatives will be working with planners at the start of a project, he added.
It was just this lack of an established strategic planning culture at BBDO that appealed to the new hires.
"I was attracted to the opportunity to work with these great creative people," Mr. Charnock said. "There is this vast amount of knowledge here, but nobody was bringing it down to the creative people. [BBDO Senior Executive Creative Director] Charlie Meismer put it to me the right way. He said it's like being the first to a gold rush."
Mr. Charnock has just finished working closely with Creative Director Donna Weinham on a campaign for the agency's latest new client, the Financial Times, whose TV campaign for its FT.com Web site features actor Dan Aykroyd.
"William [Charnock] creates a good link between the logic of strategy and appreciating what we do," Ms. Weinham said. "He gets creative work."
Mr. Seiler commented that since launching the department, planning at BBDO is catching on. "It's absolutely viral," he said.