Kaplan Thaler Adds Planning Chief

With an estimated $140 million in new business to digest this year, the Kaplan Thaler Group last week hired its first group director of planning and research.

Chris Wauton, 50, a consultant for the past two years, has held planning posts at Saatchi & Saatchi and AMV BBDO in London, WestWayne in Atlanta and Mullen in Wenham, Mass. He worked with Publicis Groupe’s Kaplan Thaler on its successful pitch for Pfizer’s Zoloft in July.

The British-born Wauton reports to the New York shop’s CMO and general manager, Robin Koval, who said he will help guide original thinking. “What could be more illogical than having a representative for an insurance company [client Aflac] have this surprising and comical character of a duck?” she said. “Yet it works. Bringing Chris on board brings someone who can make that process an everyday occurrence for us.”

Koval said she was particularly impressed by the Outback Steakhouse campaign Wauton worked on at WestWayne and as a consultant. The “No rules, just right” effort conveyed “that this is a place [Australia and Outback] run by maverick people,” Wauton explained. “We made the experience the star, rather than lots of shots of food.”

Wauton, who wrote the 1993 book What Every Account Executive Should Know About Account Planning, will supervise five planners and researchers.

An Oxford graduate who studied philosophy and economics, he began his career in 1976 at a division of N.W. Ayer in London. Wauton moved to the burgeoning account planning discipline in 1983, working on the British Airways account at Saatchi & Saatchi.

This year, Kaplan Thaler has added P&G’s Dawn and Swiffer, and Ruby Tuesday, among others.