Nair, Puccio pair to win business that totals $410 mil since January

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In the agency world, teams generally work on the creative side of the house, most often a copywriter and an art director. But at McCann-Erickson Worldwide's New York office, Suresh Nair and Ignazio "Nat" Puccio are breaking that mold--they are a strategic planning team.

"There are so many successful creative teams, it only made sense to have a strategic planning team," said Mr. Nair, exec VP-director of planning.

The pairing has made more than a lot of sense at McCann--more like a lot of dollars. Since the beginning of 1999, the duo has helped round up about $410 million in new billings, including business from Du Pont Co., Hewlett-Packard Co. and, just over a week ago, home-improvement retailer Lowe's Cos.' $100 million account.

Mr. Puccio, exec VP-consultant, said that in the past 21/2 years, the two--and their staff--have a 90% win rate on new-business pitches.

SECRET INGREDIENTS

So what's the secret? Tools, teamwork and a healthy dose of common sense, the two executives said.

All presentations, both for new business and to existing clients, start in strategic planning and involve creatives and account planners along with the new-business team. The work they do together then becomes the basis for tools and processes that eventually spread across the agency.

Some of the processes started in planning that are now part of everyday life at McCann include the way the teams reach a "selling idea" and the procedure for handing off ideas from strategic to creative groups.

"Now we know from the get-go that we're all invested in this together." Mr. Nair said.

Their efforts seem to have paid off especially well in the high-tech arena. Gateway, Sprint Corp., Lucent Technologies and HP all have come on board or consolidated business at McCann in the past 15 months.

Still, the executives insist the process works well for any potential client, citing Lowe's and MasterCard International as two examples.

SEEKING BALANCE

"The technology category is now discovering branding in a big way, they're becoming much more sophisticated. . . . [But] what we want is balance. We don't want to be known as a tech agency, or financial or package-goods for that matter. In order to meet our goals, we have to charge in every direction," Mr. Puccio said.

Messrs. Puccio and Nair have a long history together, working on and off for some 14 years.

Mr. Puccio first hired Mr. Nair fresh out of graduate school in the mid-1980s at J. Walter Thompson USA, New York. Mr. Nair went to McCann in 1993, and after a hiatus of about two years, Mr. Puccio also moved to the shop, where they were reunited in the planning department.

"It's kind of like a songwriting team, where you have a certain sound that works," Mr. Puccio said.

Copyright May 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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