With Brain Cell, DDB Tries to Elevate Planning

DDB New York is launching a new unit this week that aims to incorporate advances in fields such as neuroscience and anthro pol ogy into strategic planning.

Dubbed DDB Brain Cell, the four-person unit will be run by Paul Parton, the shop’s director of planning. Brain Cell also includes Rich Notarianni, director of communications strategies; Dr. Bob Deutsch, DDB’s in-house communications consultant and a cognitive anthropologist; and an academic yet to be hired.

The agency is merging its account and media planning departments into one 20-person division, with Brain Cell directing the unified department. This will help integrate Brain Cell’s work into the planning process, said Bob Kuperman, DDB New York’s chairman and CEO.

“We’re trying to tap into the disciplines that help us understand why consumers behave the way they do,” said Kuperman. “We’re not doing this because it’s vogue-ish; we’re doing this because the tools for understanding consumers are available and should be part of the air planners breathe.”

For now, the unit’s services will be available only to New York clients, such as Hershey Foods, Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Unilever.

“In terms of going beyond current planning, which is dominated by reach and frequency being the primary ap proach, we’re looking at the relationship the consumer has with the advertising and how they process it,” said Parton, who reports to Kuperman.

Every shop is looking to adapt unu sual planning methods, said Grace ann Bennett, Arnold Worldwide plan ning director. “A few years back, hypnotherapy was thought by some to be an innovative way to gain insight into consumers,” she said. “But it struck most as fad ish. Still, planners are always looking for the next revolution.”