Tricia Russo, the new svp, director of brand planning at Cramer-Krasselt, considers her master's degree in literature good preparation for a career in planning.
"The skills you apply in analyzing literature are very similar" to those used by planners, observed Russo, who oversees six planners at the Chicago independent and reports to general manager Phil May.
Previously, Russo's duties were split between group planning directors Peter Picard and Barb Warner. May said growth at the agency prompted him to add someone to run the planning team.
Most recently svp, planning director at Publicis Groupe's LB Works—which was folded into parent Leo Burnett last November—Russo, 36, studied 18th-century literature at the University of Colorado and then as a graduate student at Boston University. She had been planning to teach at the university level.
But after Russo, 36, earned her master's, a friend at TBWA\Chiat\Day sparked an interest in advertising. She was hired as an assistant in the planning department of the Omnicom shop's Playa del Rey, Calif., office and found she preferred studying living consumers more than dead authors.
"I was going from life in literature to real life, real motivations, real desires," said Russo, a New Jersey native. "The reality of the human condition versus the human condition as portrayed in 18th-century British literature."
Russo moved briefly to TBWA\C\D's New York office, then worked at Angotti, Thomas, Hedge before joining Ogilvy & Mather as a planning director in 1999. She said she has no regrets about forsaking the Ivory Tower for advertising, noting that university life tends to "disconnect you from real life."
"I couldn't have planned any of this better," she said. "No joke."