Ogilvy Takes On New AmEx Planning Head

Cornerstone Ogilvy & Mather client American Express remains a prestige brand, but “the notion of who is a member is changing,” said agency chief strategic officer Colin Mitchell. The challenge is to be “cooler, modern and more diverse” in the advertising.

Such is the main task facing Jennifer Colman, ex-director of strategic planning at Wieden + Kennedy in New York and the new worldwide planning director on the global account, one of Ogilvy’s largest, along with IBM and Ford. In the U.S. alone last year, AmEx spent about $525 million in major measured media, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Colman, 34, oversees six senior planners globally and reports to Mitchell. She succeeds M.T. Carney, who left in December to become a partner at Naked in New York. Colman will work closely with executive group director Simon Pearce and co-chief creative officer David Apicella, the account management and creative leaders on AmEx.

The scale of the account, as well as Ogilvy itself, attracted Colman, who had spent her entire 12-year career at Wieden, working in both Portland and New York on brands such as Miller High Life (“High Life Man”), ESPN (“Without Sports”) and Sega (“Beta-7”). Said Colman, “The biggest challenge will be in trying to add value to something that’s working pretty well already. It’s not a case where something is broken.”

Mitchell, however, expects new approaches—particularly in “this meshing of branding and culture”—to keep AmEx relevant. “It gets more challenging, in a good way, every year,” he said.