Martin Cass is truly one who lives for an experience.
He has no hair on the front of his forearms because years ago as a planner on Reckitt Benckiser's Veet account, he used the depilatory on his own body to understand the feeling of pulling his hair out. En route to his Park Avenue office from Grand Central station every day, he seeks out a different route if possible. He is, he says, striving for freshness. His office is nearly barren, deliberately. And the still under construction space for the team he oversees will not have traditional cubicles, nor will the conference room have the usual table. "If you are in your cube, always facing the same way, every day," Mr. Cass believes, "you always approach things the same way, every day."
Mr. Cass transferred from London to New York last August to become exec VP-communication planning at Carat USA, after helping the agency win its highest-profile account yet: communications and media planning for Procter & Gamble Co.'s brands in family, baby and petcare, as well as for snacks and beverages. The Carat team for its pitch rented an apartment loft located in New York's Hell's Kitchen equipped with a washing machine, dishwasher and various household appliances, and in that setting demonstrated the agency's unique understanding of different consumer types and how each group uses and relates to products. "I brought knowledge of communication planning and experience-what it is to do it," says Mr. Cass, 38. P&G appointed Carat to the business. In July 2004, and one month later, Mr. Cass, his wife and their three children were unpacking boxes in their new Connecticut home.
Communication planning, he says, requires understanding and deciding where and when to communicate to consumers, not just what to communicate, as well as how brands should behave to reach customers.
One of his successes: using Guinness's sponsorship of the Rugby World Cup, Carat re-established a positive connection between Guinness beer drinkers and consumers. "We knew what behavioral shifts we wanted to see in consumers," he recalls, and made their association more upbeat and boosted sales. The discipline, he says, is "a heady mix of psychology, creative and media all coming together."
Now, Mr. Cass is spreading his gospel to a 40-person team at Carat dedicated to P&G, sending every one of them forth to study consumers, whether on shop-a-longs or, in the case of the Pampers team, to hospitals, to see the products in action. "Martin is a great leader and gets results. His passion for understanding the consumer is infectious and has helped all the brands Carat works on," says Ted Woehrle, VP-marketing, North America, P&G.