Bennett to Arnold for Planning

Arnold spent a year and a half searching for the right person to lead the agency’s account planning function, and senior managers believe Graceann Bennett’s big-brand experience and team approach to creative strategy fits the bill.

Bennett, 35, next week joins Boston-based Arnold as executive vice president/director of account planning from Mullen, where she had been senior vice president/associate director of planning, the shop’s No. 2 planning position.

Bennett spent about three years with Wenham, Mass.-based Mullen, working on accounts such as LendingTree.com, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and former client Cozone.com, a unit of CompUSA. Mullen’s work for Cozone included a well-remembered spot featuring Donald Trump in a pottery class.

“The chance to be No. 1 is a huge opportunity, especially at an agency like Arnold,” Bennett said. Arnold is the region’s largest traditional shop, more than three times Mullen’s size. At Arnold, Bennett will run the Boston office’s 20-person Consumer Insight Group as well as oversee about a dozen other staffers at outposts in McLean, Va., St. Louis and San Francisco.

She succeeds Kristin Volk, who left Arnold to help launch Deutsch’s short-lived Boston office, which closed several weeks ago.

Volk, considering career options in the wake of Deutsch’s local demise, said she is glad her former staff at Arnold will have in Bennett “a good leader and strong advocate” at the helm.

Arnold spent more than a year and met with “20, 25 people,” to replace Volk, said agency president Fran Kelly, who cited Bennett’s easy-going but thoughtful demeanor and consensus-building approach to planning as sealing the deal.

Sources said Arnold spoke to Ted Nelson and Justin Holloway, respectively the top planners at Mullen and Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston, but found their styles too brash or idiosyncratic. Kelly declined to identify other candidates for the job. Nelson and Holloway did not return calls.

Bennett described herself as “a no-ego planner” who works closely with creative staffers to generate ideas for campaigns. “I make them part of the process,” she said. “I don’t just come in at the end with a lot of research.”

At Arnold, rigorously applying the planning discipline to accounts other than agency calling cards Volkswagen of America and American Legacy Foundation is a primary goal, she said.