Tell us a bit about yourself, what do you do?
I’m the Managing Director, Strategic Planning of Bright Red, and head up the planning discipline here.
What did you do before your current role and what led you to where you are now?
I started my career in Account Management at Young & Rubicam New York and worked in account management at both Y&R, Kirshenbaum & Bond, and The Zimmerman Agency. About 6 years ago I began the transition into planning (which I believe is a better fit for me at this stage of my career, as well as something I’ve always enjoyed).
How would you define the role of a strategist in your agency?
Every day is different. In addition to managing the agency’s proprietary planning methodology (called “Momentum®”), I oversee a planning department that does everything from developing creative briefs to trend spotting to new business pitching. I work very closely with our Chief Creative Officer (Liz Paradise) who is a fan of strategy (thank God). J
How have you seen the role of a strategist been evolving since you first began?
More and more, the demand for data is coloring everything that we do (and not just strategy but every discipline in the agency). Many clients are expecting more data-driven, linear brand storytelling, which requires us to use both sides of our brain and balance the data with the creativity – a juggling act that sometimes is more difficult than it might seem. For example, where before we could sometimes support creative ideas with consumer insights and thought-pieces, we now have to ensure that there is hard data (in both upfront as well as ROI) to armor our arguments.
In your opinion, what are the greatest barriers an aspiring planner/strategist encounters when trying to start their career?
I think the greatest barrier is breaking in to the business as a junior strategist. There’s just no clear-cut path and the job descriptions and expectations are evolving. There are brand planners, digital strategists, media strategists, and on and on and on. The fragmentation and specificity is staggering.
In your time, what have you noticed are the key skills and traits that separate great strategists from the mediocre?
Flexibility and fluidity is key. Because of all the reasons outlined above, no planner can be ‘set in his/her ways’. We must continually be curious and evolve the way we think in order to keep up with the swirling world around us. And a healthy dose of guts.
How do you avoid getting stuck in a cultural bubble and stay informed on the needs and desires of everyday consumers?
I constantly tell my planners (and myself) to bring it back down to earth. Remember that we’re selling products that meet consumer needs in some way. Let’s not get all caught up so much in neuroscience and brain theory and strategic gymnastics that we’re still selling products. Truth + Insight = Idea. And it’s all about the idea. We should never forget that.