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Cliff Courtney, GSD&M's new head of account planning, does not sell himself short. "I'm someone's definition of what planning could be," he said, explaining that his creative credentials set him apart from most planners.

The 46-year-old New York native, who joined the Omnicom Group shop earlier this month as svp/director of marketplace planning, will oversee a 20-person department. He reports to evp and chief operating officer Duff Stewart at the Austin, Texas, agency.

Courtney fills a position vacated more than a year ago by James Martin, who moved to GSD&M's internal consulting unit, the Incite Team, as an svp/director. "[The agency] looked at a lot of people and [was] willing to be patient until we found the right fit," said Stewart.

A copywriter by trade, Courtney was executive creative director for three years at BSA Advertising in New York before co-founding Courtney & Watson Advertising in Miami in 1995. There, with clients such as American Express and Darden Restaurants, Courtney, a University of Florida graduate, became immersed in planning. He sold his shop to Omnicom in 2001 and launched a Miami Beach branding consultancy, Jumbo Green, where he counted Burger King among his clients.

Courtney said his goal at GSD&M is to build a more creative planning department than those typically found at other agencies. "A great brief should stimulate a creative the same way a great ad stimulates a consumer," he said. "GSD&M isn't satisfied with planning bordering on irrelevance. [They said], 'Let's hire someone who can generate ideas, not just unearth insights.' "

Courtney said what surprises most people about him is his business acumen. "If you look deeper, you see someone whose feet are firmly rooted in solid business practice," he said. "I can concept heavily, but I'm driven by shareholder value."