Pollster Luntz Steps Down as CEO of Namesake Agency

After Long Election Slog, Wants to Focus on Creative, Strategic Aspects of Communications

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Frank Luntz, the pollster you probably saw bouncing around on Fox News during the presidential debates, is stepping down as CEO of Omnicom Group-owned Luntz, Maslansky Strategic Research and will be replaced by Michael Maslansky, currently the firm's president for the past five years.
Frank Luntz
Frank Luntz Credit: Fox

Mr. Luntz told Ad Age that while the election season and his appearances on Fox almost every night have run him ragged -- he claims to have been on the road for more than 300 days this year and to have logged more 300,000 miles in air travel -- they also provided the opportunity he needed to focus his professional life in a new direction, specifically communications.

"All of the people I wanted to pitch in the corporate world were seeing my analysis in the political world," he said. "And that has opened so many corporate avenues that would have otherwise been closed."

Mr. Luntz, who will now be chairman emeritus of the firm, said his goal is to get away from the research side of things and focus more on the creative aspect of communications.

"I want to take communications to a new level," Mr. Luntz said. "I'm getting engaged now in long-term strategic planning rather than short-term customer satisfaction. I'm getting much more involved in helping companies look out over the next 10 years rather than the next 10 days, and it's being done at the highest levels of the corporation, which I enjoy. It gives me the most opportunity to impact every aspect of strategy and communications. I'm trying to wrap the science of politics, the science of marketing and the science of human behavior into a single overarching idea."

Company also advancing
But Mr. Luntz isn't the only one evolving. Mr. Maslansky said that Luntz Maslansky, whose clients include Microsoft, Starbucks and eBay, is moving into the next phase of its development as well and wants to make the move from a behind-the-scenes political influencer to a non-partisan strategic consultancy for its corporate and trade-association clients. He said the company will continue to use the research-based methodology that Mr. Luntz developed in its work. Mr. Luntz's methodology, known as the Luntz Method of Language Strategy, was most recently used by CNN and Fox News to track voter reaction to the presidential debates.

"We use that research to try and understand what our clients' audiences are hearing and how they interpret language so that we can develop messages for them that are more likely to resonate with consumers," Mr. Maslansky said. "We have always been involved in the message development and communications side of the business. So we have been and will continue to be this hybrid of a research and communications firm."
Michael Maslansky
Michael Maslansky

Mr. Maslansky said Mr. Luntz would continue to work with the firm on select clients. Mr. Luntz said he will continue to use the firm as his pollsters. "And my leaving gives them a chance to move out from under my shadow," Mr. Luntz said. "Which is also a good thing."

Mr. Maslansky sees two areas of communications that he would like to do more work in, including corporate social responsibility and internal communication.

"More and more of our clients are looking for ways to promote their [corporate social responsibility] efforts in a way that's credible," he said. "[But] they and others are getting hit with accusations of greenwashing. And we found there are approaches you could take to more effectively communicate your efforts and get credit for them."

He believes that given the economic environment, marketers need as many spokespeople as possible, and he believes employees tend to be the best brand ambassadors. "How management communicates with their employees and the messages they send are critical to getting employees to send the right messages to customers," Mr. Maslansky said. "And we're doing a lot of work in that regards."

Praise for Obama campaign
Asked about his thoughts on the outcome of the election and the communications job Team Obama did, Mr. Luntz only had the highest of praise, saying it was the best political communications team ever and proved that good communications is the best form of politics.

"We have never seen anything like it and we probably never will again," he said. "From a messaging perspective it was perfect. They took rapid response to a level that will never be surpassed. If they got something wrong at noon they fixed it by 1. If there was a competitive ad up at 5 p.m. they had a response by 7 a.m. Obama never should have been president, based on his background and Hillary Clinton's advantage, but he proved that a well-constructed and articulated message could defeat a seemingly undefeatable political advantage."
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