Bean Counters Storm BBDO Creative Culture

Planning guru Paul Matheson hires Matt Hermann and Catrina McAuliffe to build out offices

Can an agency known for its free-wheeling creative prowess reinvent itself as a place identified with something as measured and serious as planning? BBDO, it seems, wants to find out.

Six months ago the agency hired Paul Matheson, the regional planning director at Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific, to return to the States and head up that function at BBDO North America and in New York. Matheson, who oversaw some 300 planners in Ogilvy group companies in the region, had also worked closely with Coca-Cola and Unilever brands like Pond’s and Dove.

Now Matheson is starting to make his first major moves. This week the agency will announce it has hired Matt Hermann and Catrina McAuliffe as executive vice presidents, directors of behavioral planning, to build departments at BBDO’s offices in San Francisco and Atlanta, respectively. Hermann has been chief strategy officer of McCann West for the past 14 months, with oversight of the agency’s Los Angeles and San Francisco offices. (In his new role, Hermann succeeds Nick Bartle, who was also head of planning in North America, who left in January to join Apple as senior director of planning.) At BBDO, Hermann is working again with Goodby, Silverstein & Partners alum Mike McKay, who was named executive creative director at the San Francisco agency in January.

McAuliffe’s role in Atlanta is new. She was one of the original British planners brought to the U.S. in the 1980s by Jane Newman, the Chiat/Day executive who helped introduce the then-primarily English discipline that combines research and strategic thinking. McAuliffe is also a founder of Goldberg Moser O’Neill and more recently was co-chair of the 4A's Account Planning Committee and its conference.

In changing BBDO’s planning culture, Matheson wants to mirror the efforts of the agency’s North American creative chief David Lubars, who in 2004 joined a large, traditional shop known primarily for its TV output. He has since sought to diversify its image through technology and design.

“The goal and ambition is to do for planning the same that BBDO has done for creative, to elevate it and to use it to inform that creative,” says Matheson, evp, director of behavior planning. “Companies come here for the work, and our brief is to make the work better.”

He reports to Lubars, an arrangement he noted as “very unusual” in the planning world.

Matheson and his team are already having some impact. Ted Gilvar, chief global marketing officer, Monster Worldwide, says BBDO’s planners have been helping him address some larger brand issues for the jobs site and some of that will be reflected in the next round of new advertising which will be different from what the company has been doing.

“The way I look at BBDO is: It’s a place that has always been about the work and creativity, and when planning is implemented at its best, it allows creativity to flourish—it just does it from the perspective of the consumer,” says Gilvar, who previously ran’s ad account at BBDO. Matheson wants to build a planning organization similar to BBDO’s creative department as he hires more senior account planners and bundles clients in groups under them.

A real measure of whether BBDO can create a planning reputation is whether it can draw top talent. Last year, The Planner Survey—an annual report that monitors elements like salaries—asked respondents which agency has the strongest planning. Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Wieden + Kennedy each received 15 percent of the response; Crispin Porter + Bogusky, 12 percent; JWT, 7 percent; Fallon, 4 percent; Anomaly, 3 percent; and Ogilvy, 2 percent.

There was one hopeful sign for BBDO: Respondents cited Matheson as one of the planning industry’s “unsung heroes.”