Donlin Works Out GM Unit Plan

GM Planworks, the media planning unit created by the Starcom MediaVest Group to decide where General Motors should spend its $2.6 billion ad budget, is set to open Dec. 1, staffed largely by executives plucked from GM roster shops.

But employees from outside the GM realm have also been added in an effort to get some fresh thinking, said Dennis Donlin, who was named president of the entity when the Bcom3 media units won the business in July.

“We’ve laid in a core of talent for continuity, but we’ll also be mixing in Starcom people as well as people from outside the system,” Donlin said. “The Detroit media community has been so self-contained, and we really want to break that cycle.”

The total staff will be between 150 and 200. Donlin said about 85 percent of the group’s top-level managers and about 75 percent of the rest of the staff have been hired.

Many are top-level media people from the various GM agencies that previously handled the automaker’s media planning and that still handle creative. Among them are three directors of strategic communications planning for Chevrolet at Campbell-Ewald: Nancy Walter, an executive vice president, and senior vice presidents Karen Campbell and Gail Bindi. Also joining Planworks is Karen Schneider, a top Buick media planner at McCann-Erickson.

Two months ago, Mary Carpenter and Jana O’Brien joined GM Planworks as director of operations and executive director of strategic research and insights. Both are longtime employees of Starcom and Leo Burnett.

Donlin said the Planworks office will be “virtually paperless” and will use a controlled-access secure Web site that will be accessed by both employees and the client. The media schedule from GM Mediaworks, the Interpublic Group unit that purchases the automaker’s media, will be part of the “one-system solution,” Donlin said. “It will really free up the administrative aspect of jobs,” allowing employees to focus more on the strategic tasks.