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A team built around you

Access the expertise of a fully-equipped, world-class planning department with our diverse team of strategists and researchers. We all have different backgrounds, specialities and experience levels, so we can assemble the best team for every project. 

Core team

Every client is looked after by a Strategy Director who will manage and oversee every project, to ensure it is always on brief and delivered to the highest standards. 

Steve McCarron, Strategy Director

Co-Founder and Strategy Director

Steve started his career as graduate trainee at DDB London in 1998, where he cut his strategy teeth on brands such as Budweiser, British Meat and Hellmann’s mayonnaise. 


He moved to Manchester and joined TBWA in 2003, where he later became Strategy Director, applying their Disruption approach across brands such as Morrisons and Chicago Town Pizzas. 


He moved to Cheetham Bell JWT in 2008, becoming Head of Planning and later Managing Director of the agency. He oversaw strategy across all business including, retail, government as well as FMCG. 


In 2018 he became Managing Director of Dentsu Aegis’ specialist B2B agency, gyro, before co-Founding The Planning Department in 2020. 

Steve McCarron 

Helen Davies, Strategy Director

Co-Founder and Strategy Director

Starting out as a qual researcher in London, Helen worked with ad agencies and clients such as Diageo, Coca-Cola, The Telegraph, Weetabix and BT specialising in brand strategy and creative development research.  


She left as Associate Director to become an Account Planner at TBWA\Manchester.  


There, she became a Strategy Director and led the planning on a wide range of FMCG, retail and government clients such as Merlin Entertainments (Alton Towers, Thorpe Park Chessington, The London Dungeon), Seven Seas, the HSE and TransPennine Express. 

Helen Davies

Rebecca Ashley, Strategy Director

Co-Founder and Strategy Director

Rebecca has 25 years planning experience, starting off her career with over a decade at TBWA\Manchester, where she worked on brands such as Morrisons, Wickes, Carex, Solvite, ghd and the Information Commissioner’s Office.  


She joined Planning Express in 2008 where she led strategy and research projects across FMCG, retail, B2B, and the public sector. Rebecca enjoys uncovering what makes people tick and using this insight to help brands evolve and adapt.  


She left Planning Express in 2020 to co-found The Planning Department with Steve and Helen, where she continues to enjoy working across a broad range of sectors.  

Rebecca Ashley

Senior Strategist 

After beginning her career in Client Services at some of the North West’s top independent agencies, Claire followed her passion for insight-gathering into strategy, officially “switching codes” in 2019.


She joined McCann Worldgroup the following year, working with brands including Matalan, Royal London, United Utilities and Primula. 


With a background in brand, comms and creative strategy, Claire spends much of her time people-watching and eavesdropping, drawing on what she has learnt to fuel strategies for B2C and B2B brands across a broad mix of sectors including FMCG, retail, health and fitness, home interest and building products.

Claire Keegan-Ghica

Louisa Carey-Brown, Senior Research Consultant

Senior Research Consultant

Louisa is a commercially minded senior Quantitative specialist with over 15 years’ experience. She has researched almost every category and has used a broad range of research methodologies.  


She started out her career in research and insight at Hall & Partners, gaining a wealth of experience during her 7 years conducting brand and communications studies, before going on to set up and lead the quantitative offering for Relish Research.  


She has worked across a wide range of sectors, leading quantitative research projects for well-known brands, such as Channel 4, Boots, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Opera House, L’Oreal, EDF Energy and Oxfam. 

Louisa Carey-Brown

Alice Woods, Strategy Director

Strategy Director

With over 10 years’ experience in the creative industry. Alice’s B2B and B2C experience across multiple categories; culture, tech, sport, FMCG, professional services, tourism and the arts, means she is able to bring a vast expanse of learnings and cultural insight to every project. 

A restless spirit and thirst for knowledge has afforded Alice the pleasure of working across a wide range of strategy projects, from branding and campaign to experiential.


Working across a range of agencies, full-service and boutiques, to global network McCann Worldgroup and internally at THG Studios, Alice has built brands and campaigns for Microsoft, CPW, Visit Guernsey, Myprotein, GSK and Pringles.  


A DJ and cultural curator in her spare time, means she constantly has her ear to the zeitgeist - bringing sharp intuition and a creative flair to everything she does.

Alice Woods

Clare McCarron, Strategy Executive

Strategy Executive

Clare started out her career as an Account executive/manager for integrated advertising agencies in London working on clients such as The Post Office before moving to become Account Director at the specialist digital agency Modem Media, leading digital strategy for FMCG brands Persil and Comfort.


Moving to Manchester she worked in events management at APS and Manchester Confidential.


At The Planning Department she has worked on a wide range of clients including Westland, Billingtons, Webex and Wells Pharmacy.

Clare McCarron

Our network of planners and researchers

In addition to our core team, we have a global network of planning and research associates who we work with to fulfil local and international projects. 

Interested in joining the team? 

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