The ‘Truth’ About MediaVest’s Lisa Donohue

Jun 11, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Old-fashioned media planning is dead, declares MediaVest’s Lisa Donohue. What’s replacing it? At MediaVest, at least, it’s called Truth and Design.
Ms. Donohue, president of MediaVest’s Truth and Design Group, got to revamp the way the agency approached its strategic planning. Media planning was just too narrow and formulaic to serve clients in a world that requires synchronizing messages across communications channels.
The key approach is being flexible while following the consumer. Ms. Donohue uses improvisational jazz as an analogy for what the agency is trying to accomplish.
Rather than a marching band approach, where everything moves in lockstep, “With improvisational jazz you’re working as a team, you’re picking up each other’s rhythms, you’re taking the riff of one person and building on it,” she said. “And if one person makes a mistake, everyone’s there to pick them up.”
Since the agency decided to do away with “planning” as a title, the new words it’s using to describe what it’s doing bear explaining.
The “truth” part comes after using research and other tools to listen to the consumer, learn about the business and understand the marketplace.
“In any given point in time, you take a look at those individual truths and that’s going to give you what we call ‘the epiphany of truth,’ which is really going to guide your communications strategy,” she said.
The “design” part comes from the need to adjust how burgeoning streams of data are gathered and how insights are used.
“We need to think more about designing the connections or experiences that are going to deepen the relationship with this consumer,” she said. That involves interacting with the other marketing partners most clients employ these days.
“What we’re trying to do here is design more of an approach that actually puts the way we think and the way we do our work in the same way that the consumers move on a given day through the world,” she said.
The approach has already borne some fruit, according to Ms. Donohue.
For the Westin hotel chain, the process yielded the notion that business travelers are looking for an oasis in a sea of chaos.
“We were able to harness that understanding and create the epiphany that led us to be an oasis in a sea of chaos, which then led us to design consumer experiences in market that were all about calming influences. And then there’s a whole range of how we activated against it,” she said.
Among the executions, New York City subway car interiors were covered with an ad that evoked the calm of being underwater.
In addition to overseeing Truth and Design, Ms. Donohue manages the agency’s digital staff.
“All of that really needs to be connected in terms of the world really being digital now, and it all needs to be seamless versus think about digital and non-digital. We’re really driving that connectivity,” she said.
Ms Donohue also is in charge of the M&M/Mars consolidated agency-of-record assignment and the agency’s Sight, Sound and Motion Unit, dedicated to making investments for Procter & Gamble.
Ms. Donohue grew up in Milton, Mass., which made her a die-hard Red Sox fan. She arrived in New York just in time to see the Sox come back from being down three games to none to the Yankees to win the World Series in 2004. “I loved every minute of it,” she said.
A big sports fan, as a kid she wanted to be a sportscaster. Her father, who worked for Polaroid, arranged for the then-12-year-old to spend a day with the company’s ad agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach, which then was cranking out the memorable campaign featuring Mariette Hartley and James Garner.
In high school she did a class project at a small Boston agency; in her senior year at Brown University, she interned with Arnold Advertising.
Ms. Donohue interviewed with several agencies, but her first choice was Leo Burnett in Chicago, which hired her.
She initially wanted to be an account person, but the agency’s training program started with media.
“I fell in love with it and stayed in media,” she said. The Burnett media department became Starcom, now part of the Starcom MediaVest Group.
She did both planning and buying, working first on the General Motors agency-of-record account, then on Kellogg, overseeing planning, while buying a couple of dayparts.
“For me it was always hard to separate [buying and planning] because they fed into each other,” she said.
After helping MediaVest win the M&M/Mars account, Ms. Donohue was given the opportunity by Laura Desmond to move east to New York to head up the account. Ms. Desmond, who started at Burnett at the same time, just was named global CEO of MediaVest/the Americas.
“There were a lot of exciting things going on at MediaVest, and so it was a way to get change, given that I’d been at Starcom for 17 years,” Ms. Donohue said.
In her free time, Ms. Donohue is an avid golfer. She said she’s good at the game and very athletic overall, enjoying hiking, rollerblading and running as well.
“You can fact-check that,” she said.
She also likes returning to Massachusetts, particularly Cambridge, where her sister lives, and Cape Cod, where her family has a house.
Ms. Donohue also enjoys traveling, looking to extend business trips to see new places.
A recent planned trip to London was lost when her plane sat at Kennedy Airport for six hours before taking off.
Last year was better, as she visited Berlin and Beijing. “Last year I called my ‘year of the wall,’” she said.
Who knew: When she was young, Ms. Donohue wanted to marry Red Sox star Freddie Lynn. Then she realized “he wasn’t going to wait for me,” she said. She does, however, have a baseball signed by the 1975 Rookie of the Year, MVP and Gold Glove winner.

One Comment

  1. This is nice! How did you learn about this when you were getting started?

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