M&C Saatchi Makes a Change in Strategy

N.Y. shop recruits Graceann Bennett to lead strategic planning

Jeff Brooks enjoys project work but craves retainer relationships.

To that end, Brooks, the CEO of M&C Saatchi, New York, is making a change in his leadership team. Sveta Doucet, who was integral to the agency landing projects from the likes of General Electric, Pernod Ricard and Schiff Nutrition, is giving way to Graceann Bennett, the former director of strategic planning at the Chicago office of Ogilvy & Mather. 

Bennett, who starts in December (when Doucet leaves the agency), also was a managing partner at Ogilvy, Chicago, where she helped win new business and worked on accounts like Unilever (Dove), SC Johnson (corporate strategy) and Kimberly-Clark (Kotex). At M&C, she becomes an equity partner alongside Brooks and chief creative officer Pierre Lipton.

Brooks described his new partner as "an entrepreneur since her first day in business," adding, "The way that she thinks is just different from the way people [think] who have been raised in traditional corporate structures—forget advertising—in that she's incredibly curious, inventive, innovative and she's passionate about all the right things."

In her new job, Bennett becomes a big fish in a much smaller pond. She'll focus her efforts on the shop's advertising unit, which employs just 25 staffers; M&C's other two units in New York—public relations and mobile marketing—employ another 25 to 35 more. In contrast, Ogilvy, where she spent more than six years, has about 590 staffers across its advertising, direct marketing, digital, pr and shopper marketing units.

That said, Bennett, who left Ogilvy in March, welcomes the change in scale.

"I was ready to never be in advertising again because I was sick of all the big holding companies. Once it gets really big … you feel like you're a cog in the machine," said Bennett, who early in her career worked at New York creative boutique Weiss, Whitten, Stagliano. "And I wanted to create something new or be part of a team that's more nimble, more entrepreneurial and … more connected to the work and less about the machinery of big agency holding companies.

"Even though there's a lot of power and a lot a scale working for an Ogilvy—I mean it definitely was a really great thing in my career—I've kind of done that so many times," Bennett added. "That was the third planning or strategy group that I've built and led."

Before Ogilvy, Bennett held top planning roles at Leo Burnett in Chicago and Arnold in Boston. She also is known for her contribution to research papers, including "Women in Their Digital Domain: Paths to Seeking, Sharing and Shopping," a joint project of Ogilvy, fellow WPP Group agency Mindshare and Microsoft that came out in 2009. Bennett adapted and expanded that research into a perspective on "digital divas" that she presented at the Cannes Lions festival in June.

In Bennett, Brooks sees a partner who can helped M&C ladder up quicker and become an impactful player in the hyper-competitive New York market. By this time next year, he'll know if he was right.