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OBERLAND Adds to Creative and Strategic Strength with New Hires


Chris Plehal joins as VP, creative director, Emma Ryan joins as senior strategist to boost purpose-driven agency’s right and left brain capabilities

OBERLAND Adds to Creative and Strategic Strength with New Hires

OBERLAND, the New York-based agency for purpose-driven brands, has added two new hires who aim to boost its creative firepower while adding more intellectual capital to its strategic planning department. Chris Plehal, most recently at Red Tettemer O’Connell & Partners in Philadelphia, has joined in the position of vice president, creative director, and Emma Ryan, most recently at IPG’s Gotham, has joined as senior strategist. 

Chris reports to Lisa Topol, managing partner and executive creative director, with whom he worked earlier at JWT (now Wunderman Thompson), while Emma reports to Kate Charles, managing partner and chief strategic officer, with whom she worked at Lippe Taylor. 

A graduate of Dartmouth, Chris has created work for such brands as Google, YouTube, Macy’s, Diageo, Kellogg’s, JetBlue, Chevrolet and many more. His ads have been recognised with Cannes Lions, One Show Pencils, Clios, Effies and Webbys, among other honours. He got his start at Hill Holliday in Boston before joining JWT in New York. Prior to joining Red Tettemer, he was with co:collective, and was also on staff at Google Creative Lab. 

Beyond advertising, Chris has created content for other media genres and platforms. This includes writing 'Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus,' an animated holiday special that airs annually on CBS, as well as content for the Travel Channel, Cartoon Network, Food & Wine and Headspace. 

“I first met Chris well over a decade ago, when I was a creative director at JWT and he was on our team,” says Lisa. “But long after I left, I remembered Chris as a standout thinker able to write across different tones with equal capability. He could transform a standard brief or insight into something far more surprising, and he just stuck with me as someone I admired and loved working with. Perhaps most importantly, he also re-created the entire ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy with LEGOs to raise money for Partners in Health during the pandemic. I was totally gonna do that, but my dog ate my LEGOs.”

Chris says that purpose and social activism have always been important to him. “I’ve tried to use my advertising powers for good rather than evil, as much as I can,” he quips, but points out that there are limited opportunities to do so at most agencies. “Usually it’s on pro bono projects or brands that are genuinely committed to purpose-driven marketing. But often, you end up asking yourself, what am I really doing here? What’s my ultimate contribution to the state of the world by doing this?”

When he learned that Lisa had joined OBERLAND, it gave him pause. “For her to make that choice meant something to me about what she wanted out of her career,” he states. “And I felt like it might be a great time to join forces and do some really amazing work for clients that matter. 

My goal here is to be able to do things I find creative, fulfilling and exciting, working with smart, interesting people on brands we believe in and that are making the world a better place,” he continues. “And that’s aligned with what Bill Oberlander and Drew Train intended when they launched OBERLAND, and what Lisa and Kate Charles are helping them build as partners. I don't know how many opportunities you get to do that kind of thing, while still making a living and working with the calibre of people you find here. I just couldn’t pass it up.”

Also joining OBERLAND is Emma Ryan, a senior strategist, who comes over from Gotham, part of McCann Worldgroup. A graduate of the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, Emma got her start working on the analytics side before moving over to strategy.

“Emma helped me build the planning function at Lippe Taylor, and brings a purpose lens to everything she does,” says Kate. “She’s trained in analytics, research and strategy, which makes her a wonderful storyteller and curious planner. She’s spent the last year on L’Oréal work at Gotham. We’re excited to have her.”

Emma was motivated to join OBERLAND for several reasons, she notes: “First off, I wanted to work with Kate again, so that was a big lure. And personally, the world feels like it’s falling apart more each day. To make a difference, however small, in an industry that often feels purposeless really interested me. And their client list attracted me, too. It was just time to do something a little different with my career.”

Initially working on public relations, Emma was attracted to advertising, she explains, by “its ability to connect with people in a deeper way. There’s an ability for brands to own their stories now in a more authentic manner.”

As for embracing the purpose-driven approach, Emma says simply, “it’s the wave of the future. Coming from analytics, I’ve done a lot of research on gen z, in addition to being one myself. They’re values-driven consumers, and for them, brands need to toe the line. So the smart brands should jump into purpose head-first, if they haven’t already started already. It’s going to be a true differentiator.”

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avagnoni communications, Wed, 21 Sep 2022 14:14:34 GMT