BBDO is on the verge of establishing the first dedicated account planning team at its creatively driven New York office. The agency has been working for several months with consultant Mark McNeely, former president of Cole & Weber in Seattle, whom sources said is likely to head the new group.
McNeely's responsibilities are also expected to involve business development.
The agency, whose client list includes Pepsi, General Electric and Frito-Lay, has long prided itself on its creative strength. However, Pepsi found BBDO's "Generation Next" campaign to be too narrowly focused on a youth target; the agency recently launched a TV spot without the tagline. In addition to providing deeper consumer insight, BBDO is hoping a planning team will bolster its strategic and brand positioning capabilities.
The agency has been looking for someone to lead planning efforts for more than a year, sources said. McNeely, who holds a degree in psychology as well an MBA, may start full-time as early as September.
Agency executives confirmed McNeely's work as a consultant, but would not elaborate on future developments. McNeely declined comment.
Though other BBDO offices in the U.S. and abroad have planning departments, the New York shop relies on its research department, internal opinion and instinct. One source, however, said, "If you sit in a room all alone you begin to think the world doesn't exist."
It remains to be seen how a planning team would be accepted by agency creatives, but initial responses were positive, as BBDO's culture is defined by advertising that connects emotionally with consumers. "A lot of people who have worked with planners at other agencies will embrace it," said one source.