Feature

Strategic Planner of the Year EMEA 2020: Melanie Norris

A proven thinker and leader, Norris is considered by colleagues as someone willing to get her hands dirty in every big pitch.

Strategic Planner of the Year EMEA 2020: Melanie Norris

Head of planning, BBDO Knows, BBDO EMEA and Worldwide

Norris’ colleagues identify her as the hardest-working person at BBDO EMEA – a non-stop force willing to get her hands dirty in every big pitch or project. She is a proven thinker, partner, leader and a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion – all this while also holding down her day job. She combines a strong work ethic with a big commitment to improving the client work at BBDO, and is never distracted from her efforts to contribute to the growth of the network’s advertisers.

This dynamic thought leadership, alongside that commitment to diversity and inclusion, wowed the judges. They also picked up on Norris’ energy levels and ability to drive important changes at the network and for clients.

As head of planning for BBDO Knows (the network’s insights, planning and research team), Norris contributed significantly to client growth and new-business performance in 2019. She made a big impact with major planning contributions to the pitch in Italy for Vodafone and in Poland for mBank, as well as for global BBDO pitches for Rexona, Champion and Brown-Forman. In the first half of 2019 alone, she worked on 140 new-business projects in Europe, with a conversion rate in excess of 60%.

It wasn’t all about new business, though. Norris also led and championed the launch of BBDO Works, a planning process and operating system that connects BBDO agencies across EMEA. She spent time training people for and implementing the process across the region, meeting colleagues to ensure the discipline worked for each agency. BBDO Works, rooted in solving client problems, has already made an impact in terms of improving new-business conversion rates and client engagement. Not one to rest on her laurels, Norris is already planning improvements with the launch of Works 2.0 in 2020.

Norris’ thought leadership made a clear difference to BBDO’s clients. Her business-driven approach to planning was expressed in two papers, "An argument in favour of elevation" for the retail sector, and "Positioning banking for the future" in finance. Each had the effect of provoking valuable discussion and cementing client relationships.

She was also an active participant in BBDO’s London Diversity & Inclusion initiatives, taking the role of D&I lead for BBDO EMEA and a seat on Omnicom’s DisAbility Committee. These commitments, alongside her role as a Creative Equals female leadership mentor, were an expression of her belief that differences in people should be celebrated.

Norris is seen by BBDO people as a cross between a secret weapon and a "behind-the-scenes S.W.A.T team". Now her cover is well and truly blown.

Runners-up

David Murray

Strategy partner, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

In 2019, Murray took strategic leadership of Ford across EMEA, working closely with the UK, France, Italy, Germany and, more recently, Turkey. He has since developed, presented, sold and implemented a Ford brand platform for the region concurrently with the rest of the world. Murray has won the support of colleagues and clients to such a degree that he is the sole BBDO EMEA person sitting on the Ford regional management team together with Boston Consulting Group. To add to his workload, Murray has also taken on leadership of Samsung for Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO – a challenging client with huge ambitions for the years ahead.

Harjot Singh

Chief strategy officer, McCann Worldgroup Europe

Singh made a big impact in 2019, advancing McCann’s reputation in Europe as a creatively effective network by introducing proprietary frameworks. These embedded rigorous strategy, foresight and creativity across the region to help brands play a meaningful role in people’s lives. The judges recognised Singh’s outstanding qualities as a change leader who had a positive effect on business, culture and performance. In 2019, his work across Europe resulted in more than 100 effectiveness accolades won by the network. That was thanks largely to a common-sense approach to strategy and creativity, together with a passion to make the obvious brilliant, and relentless advocacy of the commercial impact of greater industry diversity.