Top Media Strategists and Planners

Meet the people who decide how best to reach consumers for clients

Related: Planners: OTT, Addressable Bringing New Life to TV Ads

CHERIE CALINGASAN

Title: Senior VP, Managing Director, Horizon Next

College: University of Wisconsin, Madison

Why advertising? “I was going to be a journalist,” Calingasan recalled, but she changed her mind after taking a freshman year advertising class. In a media planning class, she created a media play for 7Up and her professor told her this could be her career.

First job: After an internship in publishing, she took her media plan and focused on direct-marketing agencies, landing at Wunderman Media. “The majority of my clients are e-commerce, so that initial upbringing of direct marketing is still so relevant.”

Recent interesting campaign: Carvana is an online used-car dealership. “We started with them three years ago in three local markets. We had to put together a plan that would break through the clutter or the local dealerships who spend a fortune.” The client handled the digital part of the multimedia approach and Horizon found the right TV environments, layering in some streaming audio. “Three years later we’re in 30 markets.” The agency planned ahead to determine when economies of scale would make a national campaign and, in April, a national campaign began. “It’s been incredibly successful and our foot is on the gas pedal,” she said.

Favorite TV show: “My guilty pleasure is Bravo primetime, anything Real Housewives.

Favorite gadget: One is Uber. “As a working mom, with Uber, I’m always either early or on time,” she said. The other is a client, Boxed, a wholesale website for everything from Tide to wine. “Any experience that saves time is so important because I want to spend every minute after office hours with the kids and I don’t want to be bothering myself with going to a store.”

EMILY KLARFELD

Title: Associate Brand Group Director, Horizon Media

College: The George Washington University

Why advertising? I’ve always been numbers-savvy and had an analytical eye, but I say I’m quite creative. So I looked for a career path that would really leverage both the left and right sides of my brain,” Klarfeld said. “I was really drawn to media because I think it allow me to balance the two really well. I studied marketing within the business school, so I got a taste for media and advertising, as well as business and finance.”

First job? “My first job was actually here at Horizon. I’m homegrown and started my career as an assistant account executive. A year later, we started integrating that role into more of an overall planning/brand strategy team.”

Recent interesting campaign: For Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels, the agency decided that mobile video was one of the most snackable environments, making it a natural fit as an extension of the brand’s television campaign. The agency basically created a new video format it calls the vertical scroller. It features short videos that are muted and play when expanded by the viewer. “It gives the consumer more control, which is what they’re looking for, especially when they’re on the go,” Klarfeld said. Though nonintrusive, the data it generated showed it was one of the most effective tactics for driving sales volume for the brand, she said.

Favorite TV show: “It’s between Shameless and Younger, but I’m currently bingeing Friday Night Lights.”

Favorite gadget: Like To Know It recently launched an app that allows people to shop for items on influencers’ social-media pages. “I tend to use Instagram for fashion inspiration,” Klarfeld said. “I use this to shop online.”

MICHAEL SOLOMON

Title: Group Account Director, OMD

College: University of Michigan

Why advertising? “At Michigan, I ran ad sales at the Michigan Daily,” Solomon said. The student paper was just starting to sell online advertising. “I spent a lot of time with small local businesses in Ann Arbor getting them both into print and online. There weren’t a lot of folks who were proactive about how our ad model needed to change.”

First job: Some Michigan students started a digital agency, and Solomon joined them. “It was a nice jump into creative and working with bigger brands,” he said. The agency, Beyond Interactive, was bought by Grey Advertising in 2001.

Recent interesting campaign: For over a year, All Day Breakfast has been the main focus of McDonald’s in the U.S. “I love it because we were really listening to the insights from the consumer and their needs in terms of what they wanted from McDonald’s,” Solomon said. The campaign used insights to reach young consumers and those in other lifestages, he said. “The video strategy was robust” and designed to get people reach for eating at any occasion. “We made more pieces of video creative than we’ve ever made for both TV and digital.” The agency also worked with Snapchat, Facebook and others to make people aware of new opportunities to eat all-day breakfast via social media.

Favorite TV shows: Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, Billions

Favorite gadget: My family has become obsessed with Amazon Alexa. She’s actually becoming a part of our dinner conversation because she’s validating every topic that comes up.” Solomon also likes podcasts about economics, from Freakonomics to Conversations With Tyler, which gets more into economic theory, allowing him to “dork out for a little bit.”

LAUREN THERMOS

Title: Account Director and Team Lead, MediaCom

College: Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia

Why advertising? “We studied Australian milk brand commercials in high-school media studies class,” Thermos said. “I became fascinated with how a story can be crafted to deliver a message and connect with a target audience. I think I was hooked from that point on.” She went on to major in media and communications, with a minor in marketing and sociology at college.

First job: One of my university internships turned into my first job at a small full-service agency in Melbourne called Furphy Media. That’s when I started to connect all the dots from creative inception all the way through to media strategy, planning and implementation.”

Recent interesting campaign: Thermos is helping new client Whole Foods Market drive same-store sales and introduce its first national loyalty program. “As the account lead for Whole Foods Market, one of MediaCom’s newest clients, we are very focused on driving foot traffic to stores. It’s been fascinating and very gratifying for the team to be able to marry the right content to a media plan that would effectively move both core and occasional shoppers through to purchase,” she said.

Favorite TV show: Master of None on Netflix. “Aziz Ansari has a wonderful way of presenting social and cultural issues in a way that allows all kinds of people to take a look at how they think and what they believe,” Thermos said.

Favorite gadget: “Although it’s not ‘new,’ I’ve only recently fell in love with a Kindle,” she said. “I love to read, and it was absolutely miraculous on a recent trip to Europe.”

LAUREN TUCHALSKI

Title: Director, Strategic Planning, Mindshare North America

College: Penn State

Why advertising? Tuchalski said she took a class in media planning and buying her senior year in college. “It seemed like a puzzle,” she said. “If you’re trying to sell a product to somebody, where do you place media, what channels? I had no idea placing commercials was such a thoughtful, strategic process. That was really what intrigued me.”

First job: “I was so nervous about graduating without a job that I spent my entire last semester sending resumes and contacting agencies. I set up a bunch of interviews,” she said. “When I went to the interview at MediaEdge, I basically go the job on the spot and I was like ‘OK, this must be it.’”

Recent interesting campaign: The Dove Real Beauty campaign started with the insight that 69% of women agree that they don’t see themselves reflected in ads, movies or television. “We started working with Shonda Rhimes, created a productions company called Real Beauty Productions and crowdsourced stories from real women talking about their definition of beauty. Rhimes told one of those women’s stories in a commercial that aired during the season finales of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal — shows created by Rhimes. ”That really brought awareness,” she said. The campaign also syndicated video online and worked with ABC’s social-media team.

Favorite TV show: House of Cards. Also documentaries on Netflix.

Favorite gadget: I’m really into Pocket these days. I normally have about 500 windows open on my computer with things I want to reach. Pocket allows you to save articles and tweets with one button so you can read it later when you have more time.

DAVID WHITE

Title: Partner, Director, Startegic & Communications Planning, MEC

College: Exeter

Why advertising? Throughout school I was quite good at explaining things,” White recalled. ”I like the idea of trying to distill communications to the way it’s most impactful, combining my creative side with analytical, persuasive communications skills.”

First job: White got into MEC’s graduate program, which let him learn various parts of the business. “You’re figuring out where your skills fit. For me, it was quite clear it was going to be in planning,” he said. He’s been at MEC his entire career.

Recent interesting campaign: The Campbell’s soup ‘Storm Chaser’ campaign last winter was based on some bespoke research that showed — surprise — people ate soup when it was cold out. More importantly, people like to be sure they have soup in the house, so stocking up was part of the message. MEC worked with IBM Watson so ads would be served when temperatures dropped. Ads named specific storms as they hit. The result: The campaign helped produce “the first increase in soup sales they’ve seen in many years.”

Favorite TV show: Game of Thrones

Favorite gadget: Nintendo Switch. “They embraced second-screen behavior and created a console that fits into that.” An unapologetic gamer, he said if he’s playing and someone wants to watch TV, he can undock the controller and keep playing as he walks to another room. “Technology that allows us to be flexible in how we live at home is always technology that appeals to me.”