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Planning for the Best: Being Creatively Meaningful with Daniel Pacheco

Strategy director at Jack Morton on always being curious and never underestimating your audiences

Planning for the Best: Being Creatively Meaningful with Daniel Pacheco

Daniel Pacheco is a strategy director at Jack Morton, where he leads experiential strategy for the MolsonCoors business. Originally from Caracas, Venezuela, Daniel has years of strategic experience at agencies in both Latin America and the U.S. working on high profile campaigns for clients such as Heineken, Sprint, Visa, Bayer, J&J, Ford, Kellogg’s and Kraft. Prior to joining Jack Morton, Daniel was Head of Planning at Nómades in Austin and has also worked at agencies including J. Walter Thompson, McCann, BBDO and Alma DDB. One of Daniel’s greatest strengths is his background in clinical psychology, earned at Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas. Daniel is based in Austin, and in his spare time he enjoys live music, photography, and the great outdoors.


LBB> What do you think is the difference between a strategist and a planner? Is there one? 

Daniel> I don’t think there's a difference between the role of a strategist vs a planner within our industry, but I do believe there are subtle differences among these labels. For me, strategists mainly set goals, identify and take actions to define an efficient creative process. On the other hand, a planner builds a practical roadmap/timeline, while supervising every single step of the strategy plan. Also, the planner identifies the stakeholders who should be involved to accomplish the general goal.


LBB> And which description do you think suits the way you work best?

Daniel> I feel comfortable calling myself a creative strategist, because I'm good at identifying the implicit business issues to solve through communication, creativity, and data.


LBB> We’re used to hearing about the best creative advertising campaigns, but what’s your favourite historic campaign from a strategic perspective? One that you feel demonstrates great strategy?

Daniel> I always remember the ROM case from 10 years ago. This Romanian chocolate bar was struggling with their sales as multinational brands like KitKat and Snickers had flooded the market and Romanian teens, enamored by the 'American dream' had a taste for Western products.To revamp their brand engagement and boost sales, they decided to change their packaging from displaying the Romanian flag to showing off the American one, sparking outrage, tons of media coverage and even protests. In the end, the result was exactly what ROM wanted – revitalised brand interest. It was brilliant on many levels, a wonderful insight, perfect alignment and understanding of its target consumer's mindset, effective campaign structure, and omnichannel strategy. 

But, of course, I'm also a big fan of many other brands; the strategy/creative work of Red Bull, Spotify, Ikea, Nike is fantastic.


LBB> When you’re turning a business brief into something that can inform an inspiring creative campaign, do you find the most useful resource to draw on?

Daniel> There are so many valuable resources to craft a creative brief! But, I enjoy the opportunity of having a 1-on-1 with people from the target market. Nothing is more significant than a casual conversation with someone from the brand audience. It’s something that I’ve missed since Covid started. Those spontaneous social moments are always enlightening and the best way to confirm everything you have hypothesised based on your formal research. My experience as an unofficial “mystery shopper” and “bartender’s best friend” has been highly appreciated by creatives and clients as well.


LBB> What part of your job/the strategic process do you enjoy the most?

Daniel> The part of my job that I enjoy the most is definitely when I'm building the creative brief, gathering and filtering information, and kicking off the conceptual process with some big ideas. Also, the brainstorming sessions post creative briefing is something that makes my day. I'm still working in the industry, because of the playfulness of the creative process; It's rewarding, stimulating, and fun! 


LBB> What strategic maxims, frameworks or principles do you find yourself going back to over and over again? Why are they so useful? 

Daniel> More than a specific strategic framework or principle, I rely 100% on my background as a clinical psychologist and social researcher. My process is guided by psychology models and theories that explain human and consumer behaviour. My academic and clinical experience has made identifying relevant insights that trigger great ideas much more effortless.


LBB> What sort of creatives do you like to work with? As a strategist, what do you want them to do with the information you give them?

Daniel> I love to work with creatives who have fun while doing their job. Those who are natural disruptors, challengers of the status quo, politically incorrect, self-aware, and genuinely objective. Creatives who are open-minded, those who embrace ideas no matter who brings them to the table. As a strategist, my goal is to inspire them and to make them feel comfortable reaching out for more ideas, different approaches, suggestions, and discussions.


LBB> There’s a negative stereotype about strategy being used to validate creative ideas, rather than as a resource to inform them and make sure they’re effective. How do you make sure the agency gets this the right way round?

Daniel> I always have thought that if you do your job at the initial stages of the creation process, you will not need to validate or approve ideas during the review sessions. Instead, you're going to be there to enhance and make suggestions to improve and strengthen the ideas your team is bringing to the table. I think the creative team should have complete control over what ideas to push forward; I empower them to make their decisions acknowledging external factors, brand positioning, and client's expectations.


LBB> What have you found to be the most important consideration in recruiting and nurturing strategic talent? And how has Covid changed the way you think about this?

Daniel> For me, the most important consideration when I'm recruiting strategists is to understand if they have a natural predisposition to being curious, exploring, and having empathy. It's fundamental for strategists to have the ability to put themselves in the shoes of others. It's an indicator of social awareness and the capability to understand, think, feel and imagine how our audiences do. Covid hasn't changed my approach; it has reinforced it. When strategists possess these attributes, it is easy to nurture them with knowledge.


LBB> In recent years it seems like effectiveness awards have grown in prestige and agencies have paid more attention to them. How do you think this has impacted on how strategists work and the way they are perceived?

Daniel> I've been lucky to be part of advertising agencies that have been focused on efficient, creative excellence. I've always been mindful of the importance of being creatively meaningful, while at the same time accomplishing our partner's business objectives.


LBB> Do you have any frustrations with planning/strategy as a discipline?

Daniel> I'm not sure if it's a frustration or just a fun fact of being a strategist – there is a lack of a uniform definition of what we do, how we work, and why we do it – especially outside of the industry. For example, for decades my family has believed that my career as a strategist in the advertising industry meant that I'm a TV commercial producer. And now that I've joined Jack Morton, a global brand experience agency, they think I have become a party producer.  


LBB> What advice would you give to anyone considering a career as a strategist/planner?

Daniel> My advice to anyone considering a career as a strategist is to always be curious and to never underestimate your audiences; our audiences are not objectified demographic groups. Keep in mind how powerful brand communications are and their potential adverse effects on people. Enjoy and have fun, watch and consume tons of mainstream content even if you prefer a different kind; it's one of the easiest ways to figure out what's appealing to people.


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