In demand: Soft ad environment spurs planning boom

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After a tough couple of years, account planners are suddenly in demand.

WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather is looking to hire seven planners in Los Angeles, Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi has signed on two high-level planning executives and Publicis' Fallon named a new director of account planning.

"Since early March, I've seen a lot of activity," said Terri Feuerstein, who specializes in planners as a senior recruiter at Howard Sloan Koller, New York.

The movement toward planners is credited to agencies looking for a new-business edge in a soft ad environment and the increasing need for integrated-marketing solutions. The surge in direct-to-consumer TV advertising in the health category, which has a natural research bent, is cited as another reason.

Expanding L.A., Chicago

Tony Wright, chief planning and strategy officer for Ogilvy North America, is building or expanding planning departments in Los Angeles and Chicago in addition to its already sizable New York staff. The new planners will work under the shop's newly appointed director of planning, Alasdair Lloyd-Jones, nabbed from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deustch last month. Mr. Wright is also doubling the number of planners in Chicago to just under 20.

Mr. Wright said with all the research clients now have at their fingertips, they're looking for someone to make sense of it. He said planners are increasingly the people who can explain return on investment, and added that planners are taking over the role of account managers.

Scott Gilbert, managing partner at Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, said it is essential to have good planners, especially at new-business pitches. "Everyone looks to the planner to say. `What does all this mean, what does it all add up to?" he said.

Saatchi's Claire Hassid, exec VP-director of strategic planning, has doubled the number of staff in the New York planning department to 32 over the past three years. She confirmed hiring two new senior VPs in New York last month.

Likewise, Fallon, named Adrian Ho as director of account planning in Minneapolis, and one of his predecessors is Anne Bologna is now president of Fallon, New York (see story at left and Player, P. 20). In addition to hiring two account planners, Fallon promoted both Dan Sutton and Ullrich Appelbaum, to worldwide planning directors on Citibank and Nestle Purina, respectively. "We are one of the few agencies worldwide to have this caliber of planning leadership," said Minneapolis President Rob White in a statement.

Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York, has also added planning staff. Cultural anthropologist Tim Malefyt and Tracy Lovatt, a former president of McCann Erickson's Momentum, New York. Both joined in April.

One agency chief who didn't wish to be named offered yet another reason for the boom in planning. "Since creative is your most expensive asset, you need planners to think through the strategy before you start executing creative."

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