Tell us a little bit about you

I’m Julien Coulter, the Head of Strategic Planning & Research at NATIONAL PR. I have spent most of my career at ad agenices (JWT, MacLaren McCann and Leo Burnett). The communications business is about storytelling; moving people in thought and action. PR has always been really good at storytelling that connects with people on a personal level. And its exciting to be part of its evolution into owned, paid and shared media, in addition to earned. My team at NATIONAL includes strategists, analysists and researchers, who work with our nine Canadian offices, as well as the UK and US. I get to work on an amazing array of clients, across consumer marketing, health care and corporate practises, helping solve a broad range of challenges.


What first attracted you to planning?

When I started in the business there weren’t really junior account planning jobs. I was an account director and found working on strategy was the most interesting and rewarding part of my job. I love connecting the dots to make complicated things simple – for clients, creatives and consumers.

An organization like APG Canada did not exist when I got into planning. Being on the board is a way to help build and give back to the Canadian planning community, while surrounding myself with people who inspire and challenge my own thinking.

What campaign do you wish you had done.

Goodby Silverstein & Partners’ “Got Milk?” wins me no points for originality, given it’s a hugely famous campaign. It’s a great strategy brought to life with great creative. But it is the insight discovery that I often think about. I ask myself (or better yet consumers), what would the reaction be if suddenly you didn’t have this product or service? What’s that one thing you would most miss? What would you use instead? How would your experience / day / life change? I have used this as a research approach, depriving people of a beloved product for a week prior to the groups. It can cause you to completely rethink categories and throw out universal assumptions. It is also a reminder that a great insight is more powerful than the obvious “good for you”, “tastes great”, “more convenient” type options. If you haven’t read John Steel’s book, you should.



Most planners are great watchers of the world around them. They notice cool and interesting things. Apply the disipline of asking why it’s interesting? What is the culture force fueling it? Why is it important? And how do I apply it to different categories? It’s a great exercise to think, how could this car strategy inspire and inform pharma clients.

How do you explain planning?

Planners live at the intersection of consumers, categories and culture (or if I’m talking to a health care client – conditions, human connections and culture). We create strategies by understanding those relationships and solve problems by addressing the tension that exist.

About Julien Coulter

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