Big Fish: Q & A With the Co-Founders of Planit, Baltimore’s Ad Agency for a New Age

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BFFs: Matt Doud and Ed Callahan, co-founders of Planit

In November, 2014, Ad Age named Baltimore’s Planit one of the best places to work in advertising and media.  Planit is a strategic, digitally minded agency that leads campaigns for national and global clients. It is centered on the belief that its employees will have fun, work hard, and think big.  Unlike traditional agencies, Planit separates itself into three service groups – strategic, creative and client, all of which generate ideas to change and challenge the current marketplace through digital, non-digital PR and social media.  The company’s approach addresses the needs of a wide range of clients including McCormick Foods, DeWalt, Mally Beauty, NPR, Acura, and Under Armour.

Matt Doud is Planit’s co-founder and president.  As a veteran of the Baltimore advertising marketplace, Matt has shaped the company from an operational, managerial and communications perspective.  His marketing strategy and relationship management has earned him recognition in the Baltimore Business Journal’s “40 Under 40,” Smart CEO magazine’s “Future 50” and the Daily Record’s “Most Influential Marylanders.”

Matt’s co-founder is Planit’s creative strategist, Ed Callahan, who is also a Baltimore native and instrumental to Planit’s success.  He leads the brand planning and stewards big ideas by inspiring people and seeking new opportunities. 

Like the agency itself, Planit’s founders have their own unique history that dates back to St. Joseph’s Elementary School in Cockeysville, and continued while attending rival high schools: Matt at Loyola Blakefield and Ed at Calvert Hall. As the company celebrates its twentieth anniversary, Ed and Matt, both 47, share with us what compelled them to start their business and what sets the agency apart.

How did you come the the decision to start a business together and how does this works for lifelong friends?

Matt: We’ve been friends since second grade, and after launching our careers at separate companies in the advertising and marketing industry we both knew there was a better way to do business.   So we started Planit, and kept our focus on doing business better. That meant being on the leading edge of digital marketing and, 20 years later, we’re still innovating. We’re always trying to push our Planit team to test the limits of their creativity. Our attitude and appetite for boldness is what sets us apart.

Ed: We started out as friends, but over the years we’ve realized we both have different strengths when it comes to the agency. Matt guides the company, and I focus on growing the client business. And our passion for ideas keeps us moving forward. Planit is always focused on what’s next; it’s part of our DNA. From animation to interactive technology development, to video and social—we push the envelope of what the typical agency does.

Tell us about about your Baltimore ties.

Ed: We grew up in Baltimore advertising and creative communities. And now, although the clients Planit works with have grown on a national and international scale with brands like Marriott International, AGCO, DEWALT, Dick’s Sporting Goods, AMES and Tessemae’s All Natural, we never forget about our roots and we truly love Baltimore.

What are your thoughts on Baltimore as a marketing town?

Matt: Baltimore has this quirky, creative undercurrent. If you’re bold enough to leverage the talent of the people who live here, clients will appreciate that and you’ll be successful.

Ed: Baltimore has always had this strong creative class—it’s at our roots and it’s thriving. Not long ago we were listed in the top 10 creative class cities in the U.S., and that’s a factor in what’s driving the marketing and advertising industry in our city today. The fact that we’re now working with so many national and global brands is a testament to the kind of creative energy that we’re cultivating here.

How has the marketing business changed, especially with the proliferation of social media?

Matt: The marketing business is always changing, and instead of focusing on the medium, we focus on the consumer. If our consumers are investing time on social media, we’ll figure out the appropriate channel and craft a strategy to reach them where they are. We talk about not being afraid to scare our clients—five years ago social was scary. But we took it on and it is now a department within the agency.

We act as a creative change-agent, helping our clients to challenge the status quo and be decisive in order to keep pace with their rivals and meet the evolving needs of their audiences. If you don’t break from the herd, you don’t get ahead of the game. And if we don’t strive to create remarkable things—more than just ads, websites and PR plans—our clients don’t have much reason to stick around past the next project. We give them reasons to stick around.

What advice would you give someone wanting to get into the marketing/PR/advertising business?

Ed: I get tired of resumes that just list the tools someone can use, like Photoshop or InDesign. Ask yourself, “What do you want to do?” and focus on it. Are you a creative person or an account person, or do you want to be a writer? It’s important that people figure this out early and focus their resume or portfolio on what they’re looking to do.

Matt: We also value the internship experience. When we evaluate new grads, we don’t necessarily look at what school you went to or your GPA. We look at where you interned and what you learned there. Just about everyone coming into the business brings the same fundamental tools. We strive to seek out the folks who can bring their toolbox into our culture to help us be better.

What was your favorite Super Bowl ad?

Matt: Snickers’ Brady Bunch ad. The campaign has great casting with just the right blend of nostalgia and humor. This particular execution brought a great twist at the end with Steve Buscemi.

Ed: Nissan’s “With Dad” ad.



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