BBDO NY hires Andrea Ring as chief strategy officer

The former Big Spaceship and R/GA exec wants to put strategy at the front of the creative brief.

BBDO New York has hired Andrea Ring as its new chief strategy officer, the firm said Monday. 

Ring joins from Big Spaceship, where she was chief strategy officer for six years and helped shape the creative shop into a full-service agency. Prior to that she was at R/GA for 10 years, as one of its first planners and then as head of experience strategy, a practice she started. 

She fills a role previously held by BBDO global CMO and chief strategy officer Crystal Rix, who left the agency to become chief growth officer of DTC brand Thinx in January. 

At BBDO, Ring hopes to use her strategy experience to reshape the team’s thinking on how to approach a creative brief. That means creative and strategy working in tandem to shape an idea around the channels that makes the most sense to meet a client’s business needs.  

“My goal is to train the organization to stop and question what the shape of the project is, and to be agnostic going into each assignment as to what the output would be,” Ring explained. 

For example, a client might actually need a new loyalty program or to focus on developing online communities instead of a typical creative campaign. “It's not a foregone conclusion that we're going to make a TV spot,” she said. 

Once the channel is decided, the team can ask, “What is the most interesting emotional idea for that shape?” Ring said.

The idea is to tease out two different parts of the process that have gotten “mushed together” at a lot of creative agencies, she added. For example, a brief might direct a team to do something on social media, but that’s not giving creatives a broad enough place to start. 

“It seems like the interesting thing is coming up with what [the work is] supposed to be vs. the emotional spirit,” Ring explained. “But the creative and strategy lead should be creating the brief together. That's why, a lot of the time, the work isn't as strong as it should be.” 

BBDO has the strategy and creative talent in place to pull this off. Ring’s job is to simply “bring people together in ways they hadn't been brought together before” and “create bits of the planning process that help people see things in a different way.”

Part of that requires blurring the lines between channels. For example, customer experience and UX tools used to build an app or a website can be applied to a TV spot, or vice versa. 

“It’s getting the creative teams excited about how much creativity can come from a push notification as a TV spot, in addition to a meme,” Ring said. 

While this new way of thinking will require training, “the best way to learn is by doing,” she continued. “We're just going to start introducing some new tools, and I'm going to be in as many meetings as I can. If BBDO likes it or not, I'm going to be really down in the work.”

Ring also plans to bring tools at her disposal across Omnicom, from media buying platform Omni to cultural insights platform Q, into BBDO’s planning process, and to roll out new practices developed in the New York office across the network.

As strategy officer, Ring will also think about how BBDO’s employees come back to the office. Like many agencies, while some aspects of working from home will likely stick, “we have to be realistic about what leads to the most creative output,” she said.

“Sometimes it's going to be important to be in person, and sometimes it's going to be important not to be in person,” she added. “It's been proven that a lot can happen over video, but for the creative souls in advertising, just being together in a room by a whiteboard is the best way to get work done.”

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