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Neal Stamell, VP, Account Planning Director, Foote, Cone & Belding/Chicago
Wednesday, April 18, 2001, 4:00 - 5:00 p.m. Eastern

 

Transcript of online Ambassador Program with University of Florida's Creative Strategy and Research class.

<kshepley> What is your stance on the debate between some copywriters and account planners on the value of quantitative research?
<nstamell> can you be more specific re the debate?
<kshepley> Some copywriters do not appear to believe that there is much value to quantitative research and numbers, and feel that they should be dealing with primarily the qualitative aspects of the target market.
<nstamell> I don't find most quant research to be very helpful or "nurturing." Especially when it comes to copytesting, it does get boiled down to numbers too much. I would tend to take the creatives' POV on this.
<nstamell> more on this...
<nstamell> when it comes to market tracking or usage studies, etc, I find the info useful, but typically that's way before creative development
<kshepley> Is there a possibility in the future of incorporating emotional response measures into traditionally cognitive research studies, such as tracking studies?
<nstamell> we try. The problem is that it all has to be closed-ended (usually), so you can be in the position of putting words in people's mouths. Got any examples of this sort of thing?
<nstamell> the inherent problem is that words are generally not emotional (i.e., visceral)
<nstamell> for example,
<nstamell> I doubt I could make anyone laugh right now, or cry or otherwise emote (at least not as easily as with images...)
<kshepley> What is the job market like right now for account planners?
<nstamell> Hard for me to answer in general. At FCB Chicago, we have about 25 or so full time planners, and have hired 2-3 a year for the past 3 years.
<nstamell> We're definitely in demand, and there's still lots of buzz about Planning
<nstamell> But ...
<nstamell> it is a Catch 22. To my knowledge, Planners are hired almost exclusively with several years experience.
<kshepley> What is the most important skill for account planners to have?
<nstamell> curiosity
<nstamell> if that's a skill!
<kshepley> How did you get into and get experience in account planning?
<nstamell> via more traditional research. I started as a researcher at Leo Burnett, a larger organization that did hire entry level people and train on site.
<nstamell> the transition to AP started early to mid 90's
<kshepley> Can you tell me your code of ethics at your company?
<nstamell> hmmmm
<nstamell> regarding what?
<kshepley> Do you hold any particular values /lines you cannot cross?
<nstamell> integrity definitely counts for something, with me anyway, and with the people I work with.
<nstamell> maybe that varies by agency
<nstamell> but it's very important here
<nstamell> so, that affects what you..
<nstamell> are willing to say in advertising, how far you'll bend over to satisfy a client, and many other aspects of the job
<kshepley> How much interaction do you have with the creatives, media planners, brand managers, etc?
<nstamell> A lot, and as much as possible. We are organized by account team, so I sit on a floor with account mgt and media people. Creatives (still) operate best in their own space, and are on separate floors.
<nstamell> There has been much discussion..
<nstamell> about seating Planners with Creatives, and in fact our department head is on the creative floor, next to the Creative head.
<nstamell> Planners try to keep involved in every aspect of the business, which is quite taxing
<nstamell> So, the challenge is to balance meeting time with actual THINKING and DOING time!
<kshepley> What is the structure of the account planning dept.?
<nstamell> One dept head, several "groupers" (no, not the fish), then various levels: Acct Planning Director; Senior Planner, etc, down to Associate Planner I think
<nstamell> A Group Director might service 1-3 different clients, and within that, many brands
<kshepley> What do you like most about your job?
<nstamell> I love problem solving. It's like doing puzzles -- there are pieces all out there somewhere that fit together neatly, and you have to find them and tell a story with them.
<nstamell> I also like that there are tangible end-products
<nstamell> Also -- the people in this business are fun and know HOW to have fun
<kshepley> What are the benefits of having a master's degree when looking for a job in advertising?
<nstamell> I think that many firms looking for acct management people like to see the masters. You need to have good business sense and be able to relate to the clients' concerns and sensibilities
<kshepley> Is there a value in having a master's degree for a planning position?
<nstamell> I'd say yes, in that I think it signals an inquisitive mind, someone who has spent extra time considering topics of interest, and grad school also offers more oppt'y for internships and real world experience
<nstamell> It helps, externally if not internally. The ideal would be to study what you truly love, and not worry about what it gets you...
<kshepley> Why are ad agencies adding more length between account mgt and creative? To add to Account Planning, recently DDB Needam/Chicago started this new position called Creative Catalyst. Don't too many cooks spoil the broth or is it otherwise?
<nstamell> when you say length, are you saying that Acct Mgt is getting more distanced from the creative process?
<kshepley> yes
<nstamell> Planning is sort of smack dab in the middle right now, and there is certainly sometimes a power struggle with Acct Mgt.
<kshepley> so in the end what is the role of an account exec, account sup, account mgr, account dir, account planner?
<nstamell> I see Planners are filling a specific role, and doing it better than Acct people, who are trained to do lots of stuff I'd have no clue about
<nstamell> It's about specialization and getting the most from each individual
<nstamell> so --- too many cooks? could be, at times.
<kshepley> So isn't all this just confusing the end result?
<nstamell>ideally Planners are operating more independently, working with Creatives more, and Acct Mgt lets us.
<nstamell> The idea is for us to get very specific about what we are asking of the advertising. So hopefully there is much LESS confusion in the end.
<nstamell> Creatives embrace Planning because it helps set more clear direction
<nstamell> If you give them too big a box to play in, they come back with advertising that's all over the board, and that IS confusing
<kshepley> How important is it to have internship experience when applying for a job in advertising?
<nstamell> Internship -- I'm sure that helps a lot. I'm not involved in recruiting, but I know that when I do see someone who's had internships, that's what we talk most about.
<kshepley> Could you give us an idea about how the present recession in the economy is going to affect the ad industry now and in the next two years?
<nstamell> well, in my breakfast with Greenspan the other day...
<nstamell> so hard to say. We are taking a hit now on a few accounts
<nstamell> it happens fast
<nstamell> I'd expect tightened belts in general, and ad budgets are often (wrongfully) the first thing to go
<kshepley> Can you tell us more about the accounts you work on?
<nstamell> Quaker Oats -- Gatorade Energy Bars (try'em!), Chewy granola bars, cereal bars, rice cakes, new products
<nstamell> I worked on Gatorade beverages for the past 5 years
<nstamell> what do you want to know?
<kshepley> Can you tell us a little bit about the strategy behind the Gatorade campaign?
<nstamell> you asked the right guy!
<nstamell> the Gat advertising used to be more about "wholesome fun in the sun" and there was an underlying message that Gatorade had the electrolytes your body needs -- that it replenishes
<nstamell> Anyone remember "Deep Down Body Thirst?"
<nstamell> In 1995 we did some soul searching
<nstamell> I did a lot of work with athletes regarding the essence of sports and what they got out of it.
<nstamell> Internally, at the agency, we did brainstorming around the topic of what Gatorade was and really should be all about
<nstamell> Lots of sports quotes surfaced, lots of ideas about "going all out" etc.
<nstamell> We settled on the idea that Gatorade was The Will To Win, In A Bottle.
<nstamell> It was a real creative breakthrough when the team came up with the sweat technique (colored sweat) to represent Gatorade's presence in athletes with great will
<kshepley> Which position would be better, AP or AE, for someone with both an advertising and business background?
<nstamell> I think it depends on you and what you want. Find out more about Planning, and I guarantee that's the route you'll choose.
<nstamell> I got an MBA before deciding to get into advertising. It helps me understand some of the client issues, though in all honesty I haven't used the business skills much
<kshepley> Does FCB use brand placement in TV/movies as part of a campaign media plan? If so, is the placement done through the ad agency or through a; product place product placement agency?
<nstamell> I think it's actually more a client thing, though we may certainly make recommendations. There are companies devoted to placements like this.
<kshepley> Our graduate Creative Strategy class at the University of Florida thanks you very much. We appreciate your time!
<nstamell> no problem -- I enjoyed it. Now PLEASE -- buy some Gatorade Energy Bars, and tell your friends!!!

 

This transcript has been edited for relevant content.

 

 

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