Jim Heekin Brings in Planners From McCann Erickson, His Former Agency

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NEW YORK ( -- Jim Heekin, chairman-CEO of Grey Worldwide, made his first significant hires since he assumed his post Sept. 6.
Jim Heekin, chairman-CEO, Grey Worldwide

Suresh Nair and Nat Puccio are joining the WPP Group agency in newly created roles as exec VP-co-directors, global strategic planning. Both men come from Interpublic Group of Cos.’ McCann Erickson Worldwide, where Mr. Heekin worked for nearly a decade.

Strategic planning
“Strategic planning is key to developing brilliant ideas that build clients’ brands and solve their business problems,” Mr. Heekin said, calling the hires “a sign of Grey’s commitment to developing the best planning group in the world. It is also a sign of our intention to become an agency known for world-class creative.”

At McCann, Messrs. Nair, 46, and Puccio, 50, were exec VP-chief strategy officers for North America. Both worked on major McCann clients, such as MasterCard, Lowe’s and Intel. Prior to McCann, both were executives at JWT when Mr. Heekin ran that agency’s New York office.

Filling a gap
Grey has not had a senior-level executive in a strategic planning role since the retirement of Barbara Feigin, exec VP-strategic services, in the late 1990s. But the agency, which was founded in 1917, has a strong history in the discipline. In 1935, Grey launched a newsletter called “Grey Matter,” which was described as a "bulletin of current ideas and facts that move merchandise.”

In the mid-1960s, Grey was one of the first agencies to develop quantitative research tools and techniques for studying consumer desires and behaviors and is credited with creating the term “psychographics” as part of its study on target market and buying incentives. Market research at Grey morphed into strategic services in 1988 and later on became brand planning.

McCann is dividing the responsibilities formerly handled by Messrs. Nair and Puccio, naming Devika Bulchandani and John Kottman as exec VP-co-directors of strategic planning for the New York office, and giving Tammy Hwang additional duties. Ms. Bulchandani, 36, was senior VP-group planning director; Mr. Kottman, 38, was exec VP-group director of strategic planning. Ms. Hwang, 37, was senior VP-group director of strategic planning in New York. Her new title is director-strategic initiatives, North America.

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